The pandemic seems to be abating, but increased screen time remains one of the top 3 harmful effects of its aftermath. From 2019 to 2020, adolescents engaged in too much screen time as it more than doubled from 3.8 hours per day to 7.7 hours per day. Most teens report feeling addicted to their phones, while many feel the need to immediately check messages and notifications as they are received. Nearly 80% check their devices at least once per hour, resulting in too much screen time. Overall, since the pandemic, 63% of parents say that their teen’s social media use has increased.
With this increased use of the internet, the ability and likelihood of young people to access and experience harmful content are much greater. There is a significant mental and emotional impact of online experiences, and studies show that nearly half of teens today will experience some form of mental health disorder in their lifetime. Increasing the risk of too much screen time, those who use social media frequently are at higher risk. The persistent use of social media can have many negative effects, such as lower self-esteem, diminished body image, and feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The Harm of Inappropriate Content
Accidental exposure to pornography and other inappropriate content at a young age is another common pitfall of too much screen time. Many children are first exposed to pornography at age 11, 2.5 years younger than in 1985. 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure incidents through ads, pop-ups, misdirected links, or spam emails. A shocking 81% of teens ages who have viewed pornographic materials were exposed unintentionally.
Early exposure to indecent content can have long-term consequences. It can possibly lead to unsafe sexual behaviors like sharing and receiving nude photos. 1 in 7 children between ages 9 and 12 have shared a nude photo of themselves. 1 in 3 children in the same age group has seen nude photos of others that have been re-shared without content. These behaviors may feed into the dangerous network of child pornography and cause more problems for the online safety of minors.
The vast majority of parents report feeling worried for their child’s safety online, as there are many avenues in which inappropriate activity can occur on the internet. Up to 40% of children who have accessed online pornography did so accidentally by innocently entering simple search phrases or open-ended terms. Also, many young kids are exposed to violent or sexual content, as well as real-time interactions with strangers, through video gaming.
Despite the dangers of too much screen time, there are many established and useful methods to ensure that children are protected from harmful content. Enabling parental controls, talking openly with minors about internet safety, enforcing good online habits, and setting ground rules for young users are all strategies to help children have a positive and safe experience when using their devices.
Not only do parents feel safer with these methods in place, but also, studies show that 65% of young teens ages 11 to 16 want their parents to use control software. As the internet continues to develop and increase in relevance, using these measures is vital to ensure minors do not get too much screen time and are safe online.
Be sure to take back some of your sanity by limiting screen time.