05 August 2015
Controlling Your Kids’ Social Media Time

Social media websites like Facebook®, Twitter® and SnapChat® are popular destinations for kids and their parents. It’s a great way to keep up with the activities of family and friends, it provides links to useful articles, and it’s just downright entertaining.

However, too much time on social media sites may not be healthy, especially when you look at the numbers. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Over 60% of 13 to 17 year olds have at least one profile on a social networking site, many spending more than 2 hours per day on social networking sites.”1

So, do the math: two hours a day, seven days a week adds up to 14 hours of online activity a week. If you count other forms of media – television, music and audio, computer time, video games, print media, and movies – kids ages 8 to 18 are exposed to some form of media more than 10 hours each day.

Chances are, that’s more time than parents spend on their jobs, more time than kids spend in school, more time than may be healthy for young, growing minds.

Now, is this all bad? No, it’s not all bad. Social media has its advantages for young minds including:

  • staying connected with friends;
  • developing and expressing individuality;
  • sharing links to sites of interests with friends and family;
  • developing social skills with peers;
  • learning about different cultures around the world and around the block;
  • keeping up with the daily news (many kids get the news through social media sites);
  • sending birthday and holiday greetings to distant relatives.

Visiting social media sites isn’t necessarily dangerous, but the amount of time your kids are spending may be a danger. Knowing the dangers found on social media sites may help you protect your kids, and you may need to more clearly understand the dangers faced by kids on computers.

The Dangers of Social Media Sites for Kids

Every time your child logs on, he or she enters a world in which you have less influence and control over activity and safety. Unless you’re standing right there seven hours a day, a child may be unwittingly exposed to risk.

Unfortunately, that risk can spread to your online accounts, sensitive passwords, personal information and other data that hackers can attack through social media gaffes made by kids.

Explain the dangers of social media, ignore your child’s smirk, and keep track of where your child goes online using parental controls.

What are the dangers of social media sites?

  • identity theft (your identity and your child’s identity)
  • cyber bullying, name calling, flame wars, and other unsavory activity
  • providing too much information online, like telephone numbers, addresses, schools attended, birthdates, and even the family’s vacation dates (criminals like empty houses)
  • predatory adults who surf social media sites to set up “dates” with your child without your knowledge
  • uploading photos and videos to the Internet, where they can take on a life of their own
  • endless exposure to advertising
  • rants and raves targeted at a race or ethnic background that may sway your child’s rational thinking
  • pornography or links to porn sites
  • less time spent on physical activity, creating a generation of unhealthy men and women.

Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is a real thing. It’s studied by foundations, universities and other research facilities. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21% of kids are defined as heavy media users.2

Too many hours a day online can rob these youngsters of real-world engagement, real friends, and an education. Overuse of social media can result in lower grades, higher levels of depression, sleep deprivation, and other health problems.

What Are the Warning Signs of an Internet Addiction?

Logging on to connect with online sites can easily become a compulsion – something your kids must do to be happy.  What are the signs of Internet addiction?

  • a preoccupation with the Internet, or Internet destination sites like Facebook
  • checking email, text messages, and other electronic communications compulsively all day long
  • anger when Internet access is denied by parents
  • lack of sleep, or logging on at 3:00 AM
  • a defensive attitude about Internet time
  • escapes to social media sites to avoid responsibilities, painful emotions, or troubling situations
  • on-going depression
  • telling lies about Internet use.

What Can Parents of Internet-Obsessed Kids Do?

Here are some suggestions to take your kid offline to enjoy the real world for a change.

  • Use parental controls that block access to certain sites. Your child may not like it, but you can feel safer.
  • Review your child’s social media posts regularly.
  • Limit online time. One hour a day. Two? You decide, not your child.
  • Discuss potential dangers of online posts, i.e. child predators, hackers, and other bad guys. Explain how to avoid Internet dangers.
  • Monitor Internet browsing history. Older teens may know how to delete their browsing histories. Younger users may not. Check to see where you kids go when online.
  • Warn of the dangers of meeting an online stranger face-to-face.
  • Keep the home computer in a central location in the home. Don’t hide it away in your child’s room.
  • Set parental controls on other digital devices like tablets and smartphones. Tablets and smartphones are capable of accessing the Internet, so lock all digital devices to keep your kids safe – even if it makes them mad!
  • Make other Internet usage rules, e.g., no Internet during family outings.

Parents are in an excellent position to monitor kids’ online activity. Take the time to explain the dangers. Make a list of online do’s and don’ts. Monitor your child’s social media activity and online friends.

There are lots of things you can do to help prevent Internet addiction and protect your children from online harm. Start today to help keep your kids, and your family information, secure.

  1. http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Children_and_Social_Networking_100.aspx
  2. http://www.webroot.com/us/en/home/resources/tips/digital-family-life/family-internet-addiction-too-much-time-online

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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