Adolescent’s screen time more than doubled during the pandemic, reaching an average of almost 8 hours a day. This was due in part to online school, in part to not being able to see friends in person during quarantine. The most common way for teens to maintain social connections during the pandemic was social media. Unfortunately, persistent use of social media can lower self-esteem, diminish or distort one’s body image, and increase feelings of loneliness or isolation. For all that technology made life possible during quarantine, it has some harmful effects on children.
Beyond social media, another negative consequence of increased screen time is the increased risk of exposure to harmful content. On average, children are first exposed to pornography at age 11, 2.5 years earlier than kids who grew up in the 1980s. Many users see pornographic content from unwanted ads, pop-ups, misdirected links, or emails.
How can parents improve the safety of the internet for their children? First, they should establish ground rules and healthy habits. No sharing of personal information online and no screen time for anyone in the family (including parents) beyond a certain hour. Additionally, parents should invest in smart filtering tools like Google SafeSearch.