Setting the stage:
- 65% of parents say they are concerned their kids spend too much time online.
- 41% of kids ages 8-12 and 84% of teens age 13-18 have their own smartphone.
- 8-12 year olds spent an average of 4 hours and 44 minutes per day looking at screens in 2019- the number goes up to 7 hours and 22 minutes for teens ages 13-18.
- 1 in 3 kids say they have been cyberbullied… and 70% of kids admit to cyberbullying someone else.
- Only half of parents put parental controls on their kids’ devices.
These numbers were from a 2019 study, so it’s very possible that the amount of screen time has increased due to virtual school during the pandemic. Knowing this, what can parents do to help protect their kids while online?
Best practices for parents:
- Write a Family Technology Agreement that specifies when and for how long devices can be used, what sites are allowed, what information can be shared online, and what the consequences are for breaking the Agreement. The rules should be written as a family, with kids having input as well. Everyone signs the completed Agreement and it is posted in a prominent place.
- Share the Agreement with babysitters/nannies/extended family members, so the expectations are consistent. Keep parental controls in place on all devices as well.
- Teach your kids about their digital footprint. Don’t share too much information online (full name, birthdate, location, etc). Keep social media settings as “Private” or “Friends Only” rather than “Public.” Create secure passwords for any websites that require a login.
- Get permission from your teens/tweens before posting pictures of them online, and remember to get permission if you post pictures of anyone else’s kids as well. Think twice before posting anything that might be embarrassing that could come back to haunt them in the future.
- Show your kids how to report, block, or flag anything inappropriate that shows up on their social media. Let them know that they can alert you if anything they see or hear online makes them uncomfortable.
- Remind your kids that anything they post online exists forever- even if they delete it later, people can look at site history or take screenshots. Before posting anything, they should take a second to think about how it would look to their grandparents, future employers, college recruiters, or anyone else who sees it.
BONUS tip: Set a Google alert for your kids’ names so you can see if they appear on any sites. Do the same for your own name!
Shoutout to our friends at The Digital Parenting Coach for the tips! Check them out if you want more information or resources.