Digital Privacy Expert Shares the Risks Kids Face While Being Addicted to Screens
Canadians spend more than 22 years of their lifetime online and their kids don’t seem to be doing any better. In fact, 89% of Canadian parents believe that children are addicted to devices. With the new school year starting soon, parents are more worried than ever about their kids’ screen time.
However, parents don’t seem to be helping them: 88% of Canadians are relying too much on screens to keep their children busy. What are the risks and how can parents make their kids’ online time more secure?
“While relying on screens to occupy, amuse, and babysit their kids, parents often forget about their potential risks. One of the most common ones is inappropriate content, which includes sexual, violence, hate speech, self-harm, or suicide themes. Besides parental guidance, the level of harm highly depends on parents’ digital skills, such as ability to manage privacy settings,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
What Online Issues Are Out There With Too Much of a Screen Time?
Besides inappropriate content and cyberbullying, other key tensions to childrens’ safety online are:
- Age verification. Many kids are being exposed to content they shouldn’t be seeing in places they shouldn’t be visiting at all. CyberSafeKids research shows that 82% of children aged 8 to 12 have profiles on social media and messaging apps. Parents should evaluate whether their kids really need that social media profile.
- Privacy. Companies need to decide about product features, content moderation, and user profile settings with a deep understanding of the implications to all stakeholders, including children. Parents should check the privacy settings on their children’s apps.
- Information inequalities. It isn’t always easy to assess safety measures given the different and evolving understanding of technologies, processes, and issues among children.
With such risks on the rise, since the start of 2021 all Australian public primary schools have banned smart devices. Despite the short time period, they noticed a significant decrease in behavioral issues related to phones and a boost in physical activity.
“Technology isn’t inherently bad. It has many positive aspects. But we, especially our kids, should not be enslaved by it. Many Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids tech free, that should be a model for each of us.” adds Daniel Markuson.
Ways to Help Your Children Manage Their Screen Time
Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN, shares advice for parents on how to help children manage their screen time better:
- Stay engaged and encourage balance. Keep an eye on the games, apps, and devices your child uses. Chat with your child regularly and help them stay aware of how much time they are spending on different online and offline activities.
- Allow your kid to create a plan. Involve your child in creating a plan for leisure time that balances time spent sitting in front of screens — including time online and watching TV — and a variety of offline activities.
- Reducing your own screen time also sets a positive example. You could also consider creating a signed written agreement — a family online safety contract, with clear consequences for not sticking to it.
- Set boundaries for digital device use in your home. Device-free zones and times can help you manage screen time, for example all screens off in bedrooms after a certain time or all family members switch off at dinner time.