Unlimited screen time can have detrimental effects on the mind, mental health, physical health, and many other aspects of a young internet user’s life. In 2021, parents ranked increased screen time as one of the top three harmful effects of Covid-19, and screen usage only continues to grow. Adolescent screen time more than doubled during the pandemic, increasing from 3.8 hours per day in 2019 to 7.7 hours per day in 2020, not including time spent online for school work, reading, or listening to music. Studies show that most teenagers report feeling addicted to their phones, and nearly ¾ of them feel the urge to immediately check notifications or respond to messages.
Since the pandemic, 63% of parents say that their teen’s social media usage has increased, which opens the door for exposure to harmful content and negative experiences for young users.
There is a real mental and emotional impact that online experiences have on teens. Reports show that nearly half of teens today will experience some form of mental health disorder in their lifetime, a likelihood that increases with social media usage.
The impact of social media on youth mental health
Persistent use of social media can lead to negative outcomes such as lower self esteem, diminished body image, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and cyberbullying. A shocking 1 in 6 teens have experienced cyberbullying, with the main forms being name calling, starting false rumors, sending unsolicited explicit messages, and stalking.
In addition to social media dangers, increased internet usage may also increase the likelihood of accidental exposure to inappropriate content or pornography while online. On average, children are first exposed to pornography at age 11, which is 2.5 years younger than in 1985. This early exposure can have long term consequences, including an increased odds of teen pregnancy, greater risk of depression, lower self-esteem, loneliness, and the normalization of unsafe sexual behaviors, violence, and racial stereotypes.
Studies show that 62% of teens and young adults have sent or received a nude image, and in 2020, one third of reported child sexual abuse material (CSAM) was self generated.
How does accidental exposure occur?
Reports show that up to 40% of children who have accessed online pornography did so accidentally by innocently entering simple search phrases or open-ended terms. Other ways that young kids are exposed to inappropriate content online is through gaming, video streaming, and unregulated chat rooms.
Fortunately, there are several ways that parents can protect their child from harmful content, such as establishing good habits, enabling parental controls, and setting stricter ground rules that help the child understand why rules are important.
Keep children safe online with new technology
65% of young teens ages 11-16 want their families to use parental control software, however, nearly 1 in 5 parents don’t bother with them because they feel that their kids can easily bypass them. However, with new technology, internet safety is more accessible than ever before, and families can easily filter content, block images, and monitor activity with the tap of a button.
With new innovations in internet safety, it is easy to create a safe and custom online experience for families worldwide.