For children, unlimited screen time can have many detrimental effects, and in 2021 parents ranked increased screen unsafe as a top 3 harmful effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Teen’s screen time more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, and most report feeling addicted to their devices. Studies also show that nearly 75% of adolescents have the urge to immediately respond to notifications or messages, and 78% check their devices at least hourly. Overall, since the start of the pandemic, 63% of parents say that “‘teens’ social media use has increased.”
While online, 7 in 10 children have accidentally accessed harmful content or experienced harmful behaviors such as cyberbullying. Almost 50% of teens today are prone to suffering from mental health issues in their lifetime, and the increased use of social media directly impacts this. In addition, accidental exposure to pornography and other inappropriate content is common, and studies show that on average, children are first exposed to pornographic content at age 11. This early exposure can have long term consequences such as increased chance of teen pregnancy, lower self-esteem, greater risk of depression and loneliness, and the normalization of unfavorable behavior.
Nearly 85% of parents report feeling worried about their child’s safety online. Rightfully so, as most accidental exposure and dangerous experiences happen during innocent internet searches, video games, and communicating with strangers online. Most American children use the internet in some capacity daily, which is why protection methods can be game-changing for parents who want to limit the harmful content. Setting ground rules, enabling parental controls, talking to children about internet safety, and developing good habits are all ways that parents can ensure that their kids are having positive experiences on the internet. As screen usage continues to increase, security and safety measures may be the key to keeping the internet a safe and beneficial environment.