As most parents can attest, the lack of in-person gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to a massive spike in screen time for children. According to a recent ParentsTogether survey, average time spent online has doubled for kids during the crisis, and 85 percent of parents are worried about this increased consumption.
More than 3,000 ParentsTogether members responded to the survey about digital media usage. The results revealed some alarming stats on average screen time, such as the fact that 49 percent of survey respondents’ kids are currently spending more than six hours a day online—compared to only 8 percent of kids before the pandemic. That’s more than a 500 percent increase! YouTube, Netflix, and TikTok were among the top platforms and apps that parents named as being in high usage right now.
But even more concerning are the safety risks associated with spending so much time online. More than half of parents are worried that their kids are becoming addicted to screen time as a result of the current crisis, and some respondents described incidents of cyberbullying, explicit content, and requests for personal information. Only 14 percent think that Big Tech companies are doing enough to keep kids safe from sexual predators, deceptive advertising, and other risks.
What can parents do?
Many parents won’t be too shocked by the survey results—this crisis is stretching us to our limits in all sorts of ways, after all—but less obvious is what we can do right now to reduce our kids’ exposure to harmful content.
One invaluable resource to consult is Common Sense Media, which can tell you which apps, games, and shows you can actually feel good about letting your child view or use. The site’s rating system tells you whether media geared towards kids contains violent content or promotes consumer products, for example, as well as how educational it is for their age group.
While tech companies should be the first to take responsibility for keeping online platforms and communities safe for kids, there are some additional safety measures parents can take too. To get ahead of risky online behavior, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the realities of cyberbullying, pay attention to when kids are hiding their screens, and not allow devices in kids’ bedrooms at all. Have frequent family check-ins on online safety and privacy, and be sure to model responsible usage of tech yourself.