Helping manage your kid's relationship with technology can be difficult. Many parents grew up without a phone or screen in front of their faces. Some grew up with screens and are trying to navigate their own relationship to technology. It's our hope the church will be one of your first stops when you have a parenting question, today's blog post has some helpful, research-based facts to help you understand the current technology landscape and how it's affecting your kids.
Some of my favorite authors and counselors, Sissy Goff and David Thomas, recently released a podcast episode about kids and technology. They interviewed Titania and Matt from Bark, a company that specializes in protecting kids and teens online. The episode gives some great insight on what your kids and teens are experiencing online. They reference many data points they've collected this past year from their clients, which you can see here.
Among others some of the most notable findings were:
- In 2021, Bark saw a 25.1% increase in alerts for self-harm and suicidal ideation among kids ages 12-18, as compared with 2020.
- 68.97% of tweens and 90.73% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature, which can be anything from web searches for explicit content to a child receiving nude photos.
- 9.95% of tweens and 20.54% of teens encountered predatory behaviors from someone online. It only takes 8 minutes for a predator to form a bond with a child. Last year there was a 97.5% increase in online enticement reports, according to NCMEC.
Deciding when your kid gets access to a phone or tablet and how they're allowed to use it is tricky. One thing we can all agree on is we want our kids to be safe while online. We also want to teach them responsibility as they grow up to prepare them for adulthood. I was recently reading Generation Z Unfiltered by Tim Elmore and in thinking of technology am reminded of this quote:
“Adolescence is expanding on both sides. With so much early exposure, children tend to enter adolescence in elementary school now and often remain in adolescence well into their twenties—unready for adult responsibility. Once again, students today are consuming information they aren’t completely ready to handle. Their minds take it in and file it away, but their emotions and their will are unprepared to act on it in a meaningful way.”
— Generation Z Unfiltered: Facing Nine Hidden Challenges of the Most Anxious Population by Tim Elmore, Andrew McPeak
Whatever the age of your kids, one of the best places to start as a parent or caregiver is conversation. You can and should have expectations of your kids as they use technology. Just like when a teen gets their driver's permit and it's your responsibility to ride alongside them for a year, as your kids use technology you should be there with them as well.
Whether you use services like Bark or use your own knowledge to teach your kids responsibility online, be there with them. Here is a great roadmap if you need a place to start. Help them learn to use the internet responsibly. Learn about the apps they are using or would like to use. Set boundaries and keep open lines of communication. And finally, one of the hardest ones as parents, model responsible behavior and screen time for them.