Nobody said parenting was going to be easy, but with everything going digital, it seems like it’s becoming more difficult. From cyberbullying to simply spending too much time on screens, technology adds an additional concern for parents to consider, especially as most school-age children are now required to be behind a screen to complete homework due to COVID-19. With everything, including education, going online, it can be difficult to monitor children, both their amount of screen time and what they’re doing, causing parents to be more concerned than ever.
In a survey conducted by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), 95% of parents said that they monitor their child’s technology use at least “somewhat closely.” With that, most respondents were confident in their ability to monitor technology use. However, both parents’ monitoring and confidence in their ability to monitor decline as the child’s age increases (preteens and teenagers), and nearly half felt the potential hazards of their child having a social media account outweigh the benefits.
While the internet provides another world for children to explore, many parents find comfort knowing that children are in the safety of their own homes, and 94% of parents who responded to FOSI’s survey believe their child is at least somewhat safe when he/she is online. Additionally, technology offers learning and educational tools at their fingertips and helps connect us to those who may not be close enough to visit, or in these unprecedented times, everyone other than immediate family.
With the benefits come the dangers of technology and screen time. Technology often leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, and that impacts obesity, heart health, and musculoskeletal health. Screen time has also been demonstrated to have a negative impact on sleep, and headaches, eye strain and fatigue, and neck, back, and shoulder pain have also been linked to extended screen time.
Moreover, mental health issues are also a common topic of concern when it comes to technology and screen time. Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and even addiction have been linked with too much screen time. Cyberbullying is likely a heavy contributor to these mental health issues, but the instant gratification of someone liking/sharing a post is a quick “high,” as well as a quick “low” if no one does. Developmental delays like ADHD, cognitive issues, and poor communication skills have also been cited due to increased screen time.
How Can You Protect Your Kids?
Unfortunately, daily technology use is nearly unavoidable, and in a survey conducted by Kemin Industries, 69% of kids’ screen time usage won’t change. Most experts agree, though, that kids need help navigating this new world.
“What really gets me is how deeply kids are craving help, and knowledge, and direction when it comes to all this stuff.”
– Liz Repking, founder of Cybersafety Consulting
Although parents are in the best position to provide help, Michele Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), explains that parents are also overwhelmed by the digital barrage and at a loss for how to handle it. “I’ve had parents moved to tears because all they do is fight with their kids about media. Then when I talk to the kids, I can’t believe how nervous they are about digital life, all because their parents are petrified.”
She goes on to urge parents, teachers, and school administrators about the need to have conversations and find support among one another. “Parents and schools have to work together because we no longer live in a world where we can separate home and school. Administrators must support teachers getting professional development, because teachers have to understand these issues, too.”
Here are a few ways you can help your children navigate the digital world.
Do Your Research
First, parents should try and understand their child’s use of social media, videos, apps, games, and other device use. Ask them to teach you about a game or a show they like, allowing you to spend time with them while you get a better understanding of their screen time. Common Sense Media is also a great online tool for parents. If there’s a questionable app, game, site your child visits, blocking or limiting access may be the way to keep them from a potentially dangerous outcome.
Next, parents need to have conversations with the kids explaining the potential dangers of being online. Establish ground rules for what is and isn’t “acceptable” when it comes to screen time. How long is too long? What is and isn’t acceptable content? Developing a media plan (healthychildren.org is a good resource) can help you come up with a plan that works for you and your family.
In the FOSI survey, most parents admitted to reviewing their child’s browsing history, and 53% say they use parental controls to keep their child from accessing certain online content. Screen time apps can be a helpful tool to monitor both children and adult screen usage. These apps allow you to set limits on screen time, add notifications for bedtime, and block certain sites. A few common apps include:
When it comes to screen time, eye strain and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms experienced due to the type of light emitted by screens. This light is known as blue light, and while the largest source comes from the sun, digital screens emit enough to affect our eye and overall health. However, the eyes have a natural protection against blue light called macular pigment. This protective pigment is found in the back of the eyes and diminishes over time unless supported through nutrition.
EyePromise® Screen Shield™ Teen is a nutritional supplement designed for kids ages 4-17 to help build their eye’s natural protection and support their eyes throughout prolonged screen use. Delivering essential nutrients for eye and overall health like zeaxanthin, lutein, and Vitamins C and E in a one-a-day, chewable, fruit punch-flavored tablet, it’s an easy addition to anyone’s daily routine. For adults, we also offer Screen Shield Pro, a one-a-day softgel with a similar protective outcome but with additional ingredients like Omega-3s, Vitamin D, and bilberry extract.
In our ever-growing digital world, screen time is inevitable, but there are ways to mitigate its effects on our lives and our bodies. An easy place to start helping your eyes is increasing nutritional support with an eye vitamin like Screen Shield Teen or Screen Shield Pro.
Download the Digital Parenting Infographic for helpful information for monitoring technology use and forming healthy screen time habits.