Parents consider increased screen time to be one of the most harmful effects of the pandemic on their kids. Between online schoolwork, reading ebooks, and social media, adolescents’ screen time more than doubled during the pandemic. Most teens feel addicted to their phones, and their parents agree.
The problem isn’t the technology itself. It’s the content children can access through them. Teens who use social media extensively are at a heightened risk of mental health issues. Social media can lower self-esteem, diminish one’s body image, and increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. 1 in 6 teens have suffered from cyberbullying, which includes unsolicited explicit messages, stalking, and physical threats. Accidental exposure to pornography is also common, with the average age of first exposure being just 11 years old.
How can parents make technology safer for their family? First, establish ground rules with your child. Explain why rules like “don’t share personal information online” are important. Next, teach your kids healthy technology habits, such as how to report content or behavior. The important thing about both these steps is talking to your child. They should know you’re there to help them. Parental controls also allow filtering of the web traffic itself.