Worried About How Much Time Your Kid Spends On Digital Devices? You Should Be…
A Priory poll has found that one in four families in the United Kingdom has arguments every day about the time a child spends on their digital device. Parents estimate their child spends four hours a day on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Parents believe digital media is having a negative impact
The Priory poll also revealed that not only are parents worried and are having daily battles with their children over the time they spend on laptops, iPhones and iPads, but they worry about their fixation with social media accounts.
- Fathers are more likely than mothers to argue with their children.
- Almost half of parents believe their child worries about his or her appearance as a result of going online
- Nearly all parents (92%) think social media is having a negative impact on the mental health of young people
So you thought it was just your family that argued over this subject. Well more than half (57%) of the 1,002 parents of 10 to 18-year-olds polled by the Priory Group say they argue weekly with children about the time spent on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
More concerning is that a quarter (24%) say they argue with their child every day.
And fathers (66%) say they are more likely to argue with their child daily, or at least once or twice a week, than mothers (46%).
Some of the arguments are fueled by parental concern over mental health, with 92% of parents saying that social media and the internet are having a negative impact on the mental health of young people.
Cyberbullying is a huge concern for parents when it comes to access to digital devices
They cite cyber-bullying as their biggest concern (50%), followed by self-esteem issues (41%), anxiety over getting enough ‘likes’ and followers (40%), loss of face-to-face interaction (47%), loss of sleep (43%) and the fueling of early sexualisation (39%).
In a recent report, Ofcom said that even among 5 to 7-year-olds, 82% use the internet and 70% watch YouTube. 12 to 15-year-olds spent an average of almost three hours a day online, with many preferring to browse the internet, watch YouTube videos and spend time on social media than meet their friends.
How to manage this digital dilemma?
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Priory’s Oxford Wellbeing Centre, says families should always create digital plans between them which state where and when a device is used. She says: “The family internet plan can include locations devices can be used – for example, not at the dining table or in the bedroom.
“Perhaps devices should only be used in social areas of the house where they are also visible to parents.”
She said families must ensure they have “time to communicate with one another in traditional ways and have conversations without distraction”.
Dr van Zwanenberg adds, “Important emotional skills are at risk of being lost as children lose the ability to socialize in person, and begin to think that they can exercise control at the tap of a key, and receive instant gratification in all things.
“They lose the ability to read emotions and to empathize.
“It’s that lack of empathy that can result in cyberbullying. They also lack restorative sleep. My 12-year-old told me that four of his friends are communicating via an online game at midnight on school nights because their parents do not remove their iPads from their rooms and ‘just trust them’. Teenagers need, on average, nine hours sleep a night but many are getting considerably less because of internet use.
“Many young people tell me that they wake themselves up at night to ensure they are not ‘missing out’ on messages.”
Be consistent when it comes to digital rules
“Any time limits depend on the young people involved but rules should be absolutely explicit, with consequences agreed for not following them,” she said. “It’s important to be consistent with the rules though, and for parents to ‘role model’ appropriately by following those rules that apply to them. Although young people push boundaries and at times get really angry about rules ‘being so unfair’, deep down boundaries do make them feel safe. As a parent, you are absolutely doing the right thing having clear, so feel confident in enforcing them despite the short-term fall out it might cause. Your children will thank you for it – eventually.”
Dr van Zwanenberg says: “As part of the family’s plan, parents should make it clear there should be no communication with children and people their children don’t know in ‘real life’ without permission of a parent. They should never be posting personal details of where they live, go to school or their family life that can be seen by anyone outside their closest friendship group.”