If you’re like most parents, you may have a vague idea of what your child is doing on that smartphone you gave them for Christmas. But let’s face it. Today’s middle and high schoolers are “digital natives,” and they will always know more about their phones than their parents.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up.
This blogpost is certainly not a full-blown account of what’s going on and how to manage your child’s use of technology. iHope is planning several events in 2019 to help equip parents in this area. (Details coming soon!) But for now, let’s take a look at what the statistics show us are four likely things that your child is doing on their phone.
Using social media
97% of teens are using at least one social media platform. So rest assured, if your teen has a smartphone, they are using social media. Even if they don’t have a smartphone, if they have access to the internet, they’re probably on social media! The most popular apps for teens are: You Tube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter.
Experiencing or being exposed to cyberbullying
59% of teens have been bullied or harassed online. Hopefully, it’s not your child who is the bully, and it’s not your child who is being bullied. But the reality is, it is certainly happening around your child, which still has an impact on them.
Viewing or being exposed to pornography
The statistics themselves are horrifying: 57% of teens seek out pornography at least once a month and 37% of teens have engaged in sexting. (Sexting is sending or receiving sexual images or content, and, yes, it is legally considered child pornography). But even children and teens who aren’t looking for sexually explicit material online are often exposed to it accidentally. 28% of youths are unwillingly exposed to nudity online before they turn 18.
Connecting with their friends
Guess what? It’s not all bad! Technology is a tool, and like many tools, it can be used for good or evil. The majority of teens report that their phone helps them feel connected with their friends, creating a sense of belonging and inclusion. Many enjoy being able to engage with people of different ethnicities, national origins, and backgrounds. They enjoy sharing online about their accomplishments, families, and interests.
So what can we do?
If some of these statistics scare you, that’s probably a good thing. Your child is basically carrying around a super-computer in their pocket, far away from prying adult eyes, and it is a tool that they undoubtedly know more about than parents and caregivers. Here are 4 quick tips for parenting your child’s phone use.
- Talk about it. Talk to your child. Ask them questions. Dialogue is always a good thing.
- Monitor their phone activity. Your cell phone provider certainly has ways to do this. Know the basics of using their phone brand, and you may want to consider additional accountability software.
- Model healthy use. If you’re constantly on your phone, your child will be too. 50% of kids say their parents are often distracted by their phone when they’re trying to have a conversation.
- Set boundaries on the phone. Like everything else in life, it is healthy and good to have boundaries. Consider setting a number of hours of screen time per day, having “no phone” zones in the house, taking the phone at night, and limiting what apps can be downloaded.
If you’re curious for more information on these statistics, here are a few helpful websites where this information came from. There is a lot of good stuff on them! And stay tuned for upcoming iHope events to equip parents in managing their children’s healthy technology use.