Do you know what your adolescent child is doing on his phone.?

Media usage has increased exponentially for children between 5 and 18 years of age. Being immersed in online spaces since they were born has dissolved the boundaries between the real and virtual. How do you protect your pre-teens and teens from the dangers of excessive media consumption? Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some parents still remain unaware of highly unsafe apps that erode your child’s mental and emotional well being. Given that, how safe is your child online? Evidence shows that 6 apps have been rated as unsafe or even ‘dangerous’ for children (Click on infographic to zoom in). How do you, as a parent and guardian, regulate your adolescents’ media usage and ensure online safety.?

Read more: Media influence on kids: What they see affects our children.

Here’s the lowdown on a few key numbers to convince you that all kinds of media- including t.v.- is best in small doses and heavily monitored.

  • About 3 out of every 4 teens own a smartphone today, that unless restricted by parents, allows them full access to interactive and social media apps
  • One of every 4 teenager describes herself as ‘constantly connected’ to the internet.
  • 75% of teens are active on at least 1 social media platform
  • Teens with higher social media use or those who used the phone close to bedtime reported higher disrupted sleep. Low quality sleep has been known to negatively affect academic performance at school.
  • 12 teens/pre-teens in every 100 have sent a sexually explicit image or text to others- commonly known as ‘sexting’.
  • Online anonymity added to the sheer numbers of ‘connected’ young children has led to an increase in not only cyberbullying but also in the number of sexual offenses committed by child predators.

What parents can do:

  • Speak to your children about online privacy. Adolescents have poor executive functioning skills and cannot fathom the impact of privacy erosion on their lives. Remind them that everything they put online is everlasting and can be used against them at school, in their online and offline social circles and their future jobs.
  • Monitor their app usage by using in-built phone parental controls or ground rules such as:
    •  no phone usage 1 hour before bedtime
    • total 1 hr of media consumption after school
  • Teens are secretive and even the most expressive and open teen will hide things from their parents. Therefore, it is crucial to keep talking about the dangers of excessive internet usage. Emphasize that moderation in media consumption is key.

Infographic shared by a reader.