Christmas vacation is just around the corner. Many parents have had to maneuver our way through the drastic increase of our children’s screen time this past year and a half. I believe this coming free time from school holidays can be a good opportunity to better our family digital habits.
A new global survey, commissioned by security Kaspersky, explores the role of healthy digital habits in the family, as well as the effect of parents’ behavior on children and vice versa. This study has shown a direct correlation between how much time parents and their children spend on devices. With 82 percent of adults and 70 percent of kids spending at least three hours on gadgets every day, the data shows that kids are likely to copy the amount of time their parents spend using devices.
Children are always observing and copying what their parents do—this is also the case when it comes to their digital habits. If kids can see that their parents are constantly using their devices, they will consider such behavior the norm and also spend a lot of time online. Although sometimes it can be hard to be a role model, parents should be conscious of their actions on their children’s behavior and attempt to lead by example when it comes to rules around screen time.
The study results demonstrate the correlation between the amount of screen time of parents and children. The majority of kids and adults—48 percent each use their devices at the same time during the day—is about three to five hours. Additionally, the majority of parents are convinced that both they (62 percent) and their children (58 percent) spend a sufficient amount of time online.
In addition to this, the results show that kids actively adapt the way they use devices based on their parents’ usage. For example, when 80 percent of parents spend less than two hours a day on devices, their children do too. Meanwhile, if adults use their gadgets more than two hours per day, kids are just as likely to do the same, with only 19 percent of cases showing that children who are exposed to this example engage with gadgets less than two hours a day.
At the same time, according to the survey’s results, children whose parents regularly use devices spend more time behind the screen on various digital habits. For example, kids whose parents commonly use gadgets spend an additional 39 minutes online during meals. Meanwhile, texting while carrying on conversations adds to children an average of 41 minutes of screen time and sharing family photographs on social media adds a further 31 minutes per day—it all really adds up.
“As we see from the data, the more hours parents spend on gadgets, the more hours kids are likely to spend on theirs. Parents want to ensure better screen-time balance for their children and their main challenge is how to achieve this. Today, there are tools available that can help parents improve digital wellbeing for their kids and ensure their screen time is secure and balanced. Setting an example themselves is also a great option,” said Marina Titova, vice president for consumer product marketing at Kaspersky.
“Children benefit far more from tangible interaction with the real world than from consuming digital information. Children younger than 12, for example, still have a long way to go before their capacity for abstraction is comparable to that of an adult. They first have to learn to feel, hear, see, smell and taste the world. In our practice, too, parents’ and families’ use of digital media is always a prominent topic. Many parents are convinced that it is sufficient to clearly regulate their children’s media time and control the type of content they have access to. But instead of worrying about effective punishments, parents should first reduce their own media consumption,” said therapists Birgitt Hölzel and Stefan Ruzas from the Munich practice Liebling + Schatz.
If you want to help your children and ensure they use devices in a secure way, you can:
Spend more time communicating with kids about online safety measures. Try to pay attention to your own habits—do you use your smartphone when eating or chatting? See if there is a pattern with your kids doing the same, or if they react in a different way when you put away the phone.
Consider downloading parental control apps, and discuss this topic with your child to explain how such apps work and why they need them to stay secure online.
Ask your child not to agree with any privacy settings on their own and ask for parents’ help. Adults should get in the habit of reading any privacy agreements as well.
This online survey done by Sapio involved 11,000 respondents, including adults who live with their children aged seven to 12 years old full-time. The sample included respondents from United Kingdom, France, Germany, United States, Turkey, Egypt, Brazil, Colombia, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Mexico.