In 2019 kids are “digital natives.” They’ve grown up in the age of digital technology and know how to use an iPad better than most of their parents. Children as young as three years old are already familiar with how to get from the homepage to the Netflix app and most “tweens” and teenagers know their selfie lighting perfectly along with their favorite Snapchat filter.
Screen time is an unavoidable reality in modern parenting and although it comes with drawbacks it doesn’t have to be all bad. Educational apps and TV (in moderation) can help develop the brain and it’s also an easy way to keep your child out of the kitchen when you’re making dinner. Reader beware! Studies have shown the dangers of excessive digital use in children.
What are some of the primary concerns around raising digital natives? Let’s take a look at the statistics from the parent’s perspective.
Social media is ever-present in today’s world. You’re on it, your friends are on it, maybe even your parents, but most notably your children are.
Parents often begin to give children a some online independence around the ages of eight to twelve. This is usually when parents give their kids their own smartphone or allow them to make social media profiles.
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital conducted a survey called “National Poll on Children’s Health” aiming to know how parents feel about their “tweens” using social media. The results of poll leaned towards the negative side, with 94% of parents agreeing social media makes it easier for their kids to get into trouble. But an impressive 61% believed that social media accounts aided them in keeping track of their children and keeping them out of trouble.
“The tween stage brings new challenges for parents as they often must balance their child’s desire for more freedom and independence with supervision. It’s not an easy balancing act,” stated Sarah Clark, the co-director of the poll. “Establishing family rules around the use of social media, and discussing the reasons for those rules, is an important part of parenting tweens.” She added.
Parents need to find a balance between giving independence and appropriate supervision without being negligent or overbearing. Explaining the reasoning behind your rules to your kids is a good way to help them understand and follow them.
Because of the introduction of screens into childhood, kids spend a lot less time playing outside. If you feel like your child is spending a lot of time on gadgets you’re not a bad parent and you’re also not alone.
According to the GoGo Squeez survey conducted by Edelman Intelligence in 2018, 76% of US parents say their kids engage in more screen time than they’d like and to minimize screen time 73% of the respondents admitted to scheduling structured activities for their kids.
Researchers have come up with mixed results in their studies concerning the effect of screen time on the developing brains of children. This is because brain scans are merely glimpses of how the brain works as it’s ever-changing and continuously growing.
However, a study that was published in the Preventive Medicine Reports journal found that young people who spend seven or more hours a day on screens are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety as opposed to those who only have an hour of screen time daily.
The American Heart Association issued a scientific statement affirming that elevated screen time is associated with sedentary behavior which leads to obesity and ultimately heart problems in children and adolescents. To combat this, the AHA recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of two hours per day and one hour for children ages two to five.
According to a poll carried out by Wakefield Research for Comcast, 76% of parents said their kids are more addicted to their digital devices than to candy.
That’s because digital screens really ARE addictive.
Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction, is released by the stimulation from electronics. Ever wondered why watching cat videos is so satisfying? This is the reason.
But in children, the effect is worse because their brains are not developed enough for them to feel satisfied in small doses. That’s why young kids can spend hours and hours watching videos or playing games on smartphones and tablets.
“Screen time—particularly the interactive kind—acts as a stimulant, not unlike caffeine, amphetamines, or cocaine.” Said Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley, an integrative child psychiatrist.
According to a new study conducted by global communications consultancy Ketchum, 76% of parents said that they are concerned about new developments in technology affecting their child’s privacy and identity.
Parents are right to be worried because many teenagers share an excessive amount of personal information online. According to the joint survey by Pew Research Center and the Berkman Center for Internet Society:
Parental controls can help but not for long. According to Pew Research Center, 67% of teenagers know how to hide what they do online from their parents and 10% know how to unlock parental controls soon after setup.
Parents of digital natives should educate children about the dangers of social networking to protect them from harm.
The issue of children being addicted to media is not a new concern. Parents used to complain about children are spending too much time listening to the radio. Then the radio evolved into the television and now, it has changed once again into computers and smartphones.
The handheld aspect of the tablet and smartphone has in turn made monitoring screen time or time interacting with the media much more difficult to control. In fact, in a poll by Morning Consult, 69% of parents agreed that the media children are exposed to these days is more harmful than the media in the past.
No matter what type of media your children are consuming, it is important to reduce unsupervised media use and to encourage non-screen activities. Waiting till a later age to introduce electronics into your child’s life (as hard as it may be) will also reduce the amount they rely on it and feel as though they need technology. Finally, children learn by example. By monitoring your own screen time and setting a standard for a healthy amount of time on your own devices you’ll help your children to be more on board with rules you set about their time using tech.