It seems like a baby’s footprint at the hospital is barely dry before their digital footprint is stamped online. While there is not as robust an amalgamation of research on Internet use by children in their single digits as there is for tween and teen usage, studies are beginning to emerge.
Some analyses suggest that children begin using the Internet around 3 years old, while others estimate it’s closer to 2! Many little ones are spending so much time online that they don’t know how to do “normal” kid things, like play outside, use their imaginations, concentrate in school, or make friends IRL. And parents are finding themselves at a loss as to how to parent these digital natives when they are not digital natives themselves.
Parents: 75% have implemented restrictions on screen time for fear of “web-linked issues” (which include, but are not limited to, things like pornography, cyber bullying, Internet addiction, weight gain, or predators preying on children).
Kids: 1/3 say they accept their parents’ restrictions, but 2/3 are actually annoyed or upset by the limits.
Parents: 73% believe their child spends less than 1 hour online per day.
Kids: actually spend an average of 2 hours online every day.
In fact, these kids are already starting to get a guilt complex about how much time they spend online; one study shows that 35% of children think they should spend less than 1 hour/day online and 72% self suggest that their time should be limited to under 2 hours!
Parents: believe only 1 in 5 kids have had a “negative” experience online.
Kids: actually 64% have.
Parents: think “my kids would never look for inappropriate content online”.
Kids: actually, 57% have accidentally accessed something inappropriate, and 9% have searched for it deliberately.
Parents: think “even if my child saw something inappropriate online, they would never try it”.
Kids: have revealed numbers that might shock parents:
· 1 in 4 youngsters have viewed animal cruelty
· Nearly a quarter (24%) have accessed eating disorder/ “thinspiration” sites
· 20% have looked at self-harm images
· 18% have looked at “soft” porn sites
· One in ten (11%) also viewed suicide sites and child abuse images
· 6% have been exposed to violent porn
While most (77%) have not acted on what they saw–17% said they thought about trying it.
Of those who imitated what they saw online, 6% restricted their eating, 3% self harmed and 3% considered or tried suicide.
As a parent, these numbers are frightening. As a believer, I feel called to help tip the scales in the favor of parents and the church.
Increasing awareness of potential dangers is one thing, encouraging proactive parenting and helping provide appropriate alternatives is another.
We know how much children are exposed to through the Internet. That’s why we have partnered to create Bible-based, child-appropriate digital content such as The Bible App for Kids, Incredible Islands and more!