The Dutch spend more than 21 years of their lives online, and their children seem to be no better off. In fact, 88% of parents believe that children are addicted to devices. The new school year is about to start and parents are more concerned than ever about their children’s screen time.
However, parents are doing little to help: 85% of them resort too often to screens to keep their children entertained. What are the risks and how can parents make their children’s online presence safer?
“Often parents lose sight of the potential risks when using screens to entertain and keep their children entertained. Inappropriate content, such as sex, violence, hate speech, self-harm or suicide, is one of the most common dangers. Parental controls are important, but the extent of the damage also depends significantly on the digital skills of parents, such as whether they can adjust privacy settings,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
What other online problems can too much screen time cause?
In addition to inappropriate content and cyberbullying, the following factors are also problematic for children’s online safety:
- Many children are exposed to content that is not appropriate for them, in places where they should not be. A CyberSafeKids survey shows that 82% of children between the ages of 8 and 12 have a profile on social media and messaging apps. Parents should ask themselves if their children really need that profile.
- Companies should base their decisions about product features, content and user profile settings on an in-depth understanding of their impact on all stakeholders, including children. Parents should check the privacy settings of the apps their children use.
- It can be difficult to discuss safety measures because children’s understanding of technologies, processes and issues varies and is evolving.
Due to increased risks, all public Australian primary schools have banned the use of smart devices since early 2021. Although the measure has only been in effect for a short time, they have noted a significant decrease in the number of behavioral disorders related to phone use and a large increase in physical activity.
“Technology in itself is not a bad thing. There are many positive aspects to it. But we, especially our children, must not become addicted to it. Many Silicon Vally parents are raising their children free of technology, which should be an example to us all,” added Daniel Markuson.
Ways you can help your kids manage their screen time
Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN, offers advice on how parents can help their children better manage their screen time:
- Stay engaged and encourage good balance. Keep an eye on the games, apps and devices your child uses. Talk to your child regularly and help your child be aware of the time he spends on various online and offline activities.
- Let your child make a plan. Involve your child in making a plan where you balance screen time – including watching TV and surfing the web – and various offline activities.
- Lead by example by reducing your own screen time. You can also create a written agreement – a family-wide online safety contract that clearly spells out the consequences if someone doesn’t comply.
- Limit the use of digital devices in the home. Device-free zones and times can help limit your screen time. For example, turn off all devices in the bedroom after a certain time, or require all family members to turn off their devices at mealtimes.
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