In 2021, screen time was considered one of the most harmful effects of the pandemic, as the time that teens spend on their devices more than doubled from 2019 to 2020. Growing from 3.8 to 7.7 hours per day, most teens report feeling addicted to their phones and the vast majority report checking their devices at least hourly. Overall, 63% of parents say that their teen’s social media use has increased.
Due to an increase in device and social media usage, the likelihood of children accessing or being exposed to harmful content is much higher. In addition, there is a large mental and emotional impact tied to spending time online due to the presence of cyberbullying, pornography, and other harmful dangers. Studies show that nearly half of teens today will experience some form of mental health disorder in their lifetime, and 1 in 6 teens have experienced cyberbullying. On top of that, accidental exposure to pornography and other inappropriate material is common, and on average, children are first exposed at age 11.
This early exposure can have long term consequences for minors, and in 2020, one-third of reported child sexual abuse material was self generated, which is a 77% increase in just one year. Unfortunately, accidental exposure can occur in a variety of ways, including innocent internet searches, online chat rooms, gaming, and streaming video content.
Despite the dangers of the internet, there are several ways that parents can protect their children from harmful content. Having meaningful conversations about safety, establishing good habits, utilizing parental controls, and setting ground rules are components of a strong foundation of internet safety. Although 1 in 5 parents do not bother with using parental controls for their family, new technology makes safety easy and accessible for everyone to ensure that all users have a positive experience online.