The internet, like it or not, is a major part of modern life. But what effect is it having on our children? A survey conducted by internet security experts, Norton, has found that most parents worry about the effects so much screen time can have on their offspring.
Of course, the solution seems simple – just limit the amount of time children spend on their phones and computers – but it’s not quite so easy! A good deal of adults feel that they are setting a bad example by their own use of tablets and smartphones.
The study questioned 7,000 parents from across Europe, each with children between the ages of 5 and 16. But what exactly did it find out? Here are some of the main points:
- The average age at which British children receive their first online device is 9 years old
- They spend an average of 3 hours per day staring at their screens
- 23% of youngsters spend more time online than their parents do
- British children (though not all Europeans) spend more time using the internet than they do playing outside
- 38% of parents worry that technology has a detrimental effect on their children’s social skills
- More than three-quarters of adults (77%) believe they set a bad example with their own internet use
- 32% of parents are concerned that time spent on gadgets has a negative effect on their children’s mental health
- A small minority of parents (9%) set no rules for their children concerning phone use
- 63% of adults allow their children to use the internet unsupervised
- Almost half (43%) believe that gadget use caused their child’s sleep to suffer
But it’s not all bad news. Technology does make our lives easier and there were some positives found in the study:
- 60% of parents say that the internet helps their children to learn, with problem-solving and creativity being particularly boosted
- Screen time has taken the place of sugary sweets – if offered a choice between the two, most children would pick the former
- More than half of parents (53%) said that spending time online made their offspring happy
- A majority of families have set aside ‘tech-free-times’ when phones, tablets and the like are not allowed
Yes, the internet is a good thing but, just like most others, it can become addictive if over-used. The survey found that many parents struggle to control their children’s screen time:
- Almost half of parents (49%) want to set limits on screen time but did not know how
- 43% believe their children would be able to find a way round any restrictions they imposed
So, what can be done to limit the amount of time our children spend online – without causing civil war to erupt in our homes? Here are some tips which may help:
Set your own house rules which make clear the amount of time children can spend online, and what content they can view
- Communicate with your children about their online activity. A new perspective often helps them to see the bigger picture (important when it comes to online bullying)
- Be a good role model. Children (especially teenagers) will find it hard to stop doing something they can see you doing yourself – practice what you preach!
- Remind them to be cautious before they share personal information on the web. Make sure they know how to limit their audience on social media
- Make sure that any content you do not want your child to see is blocked. This can be done by installing reputable security software
Even if you do successfully manage your children’s screen time, there are risks out there – the internet can be a dangerous place. That’s why we’ve created these two articles to help you keep your children safe: How can I Keep my Child Safe Online? and How can I Protect my Child from Bullying and Cyberbullying? You’ll find both (and plenty more besides) in the Education Quizzes Parents’ Knowledge Bank. We have loads of articles offering information and advice on all aspects of parenting, from preschool to university and from discipline to health. It’s well worth a look.