Today is Safer Internet Day. To celebrate, we’re collecting some of our best ways to keep kids connected and safe online.
Limit When They’re on Devices
Pretty obvious, right? Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean people are doing it. As a Common Sense Media survey reveals, teens spend an average of nine hours of media per day on a combination of screens. As for Internet-specific screen time, another recently published study estimates that 12-15 year olds spend one day a week on the Internet.
Are parents aware of this? Not necessarily. It turns out mom and dad drastically underestimate the number of hours kids are spending on their devices. In one survey, more than 80% of tweens and teens estimated their time online to be three or more hours a day, while only 40% of parents said their kids were clocking that many hours.
Aside from the fact that heavy screen users are far less likely to complete and turn in homework and more likely to feel exhausted at school, the incidence of cyberbullying also increases with the amount of time spent online: Teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media are 110% more likely to be cyberbullied than those who spend less time on social networks.
Limit Where They’re on Devices
Instead of focusing on the hours of screen time, some families opt to limit screen time to specific places. This is a simple yet effective approach, and one used by people like Dick Costolo of Twitter, who limited his kids’ electronic use to the living room.
Other parents take the opposite approach, and list the places where screen time is not allowed. A recent New York Times article suggests that those places can include the car, dinner table, the outdoors, and in bed. It’s that last one that could be most critical. There’s no end of research pointing to the negative impact of screen time in the bedroom.
Join Your Kids Online
One of the best ways to keep your kids safe online is to join them there. And that doesn’t necessarily mean keeping tabs on their Facebook feed by friending them.
Instead, research supports enjoying screen time with your children. Researchers at the Arizona State University discovered that parents and kids sharing the video game experience cultivated greater family bonding, learning and well-being.
Fascinating research from Brigham Young University has shown that tween and teen girls in particular benefit from playing video games with mom and dad. In a study of 11 to 16 year olds that involved 287 families, it was discovered that girls behave better, feel more connected to their families and have improved mental health when they co-play video games with parents.
But the research came with a huge caveat: Those amazing benefits were only seen when the video games were age appropriate.