COVID caused the sharpest increase of screen time in adolescents ever seen. Screen time, already at a high of 3.8 hours per day in 2019, increased to 7.7 hours per day in 2020. Although this is certainly due in part to things like online schoolwork, music, or even reading, a lot of this time is used negatively. Screens are at an all time high in use and effect.
Reflecting this, 50% of teens say they’re addicted to their phones. On top of this, 72% of teens admit that they feel the urge to immediately check notifications and respond, a symptom of addiction.
This doesn’t have to be an inherently negative thing, but for many children it is. 70% of children have now come across some form of harmful content online. More impactfully, almost 50% of all teens today are projected to experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
This risk is not due purely to screen use, but teens who are on social media more than three hours a day are at a greater risk for these mental health issues. Social media in particular lowers self esteem, increases loneliness, and causes negative body image issues. It also promotes cyberbullying, something 90% of children see as normal nowadays.
The scariest and most severe risk comes in early exposure and even creation of pornographic content. Children are accidentaly exposed to pornography, on average, at 11 years old. 14% of children aged 9 to 12 have shared a nute photo of themselves. 33% of children in the same age bracket have seen nonconsensually reshared photos of others. One third of all child sexual abuse material is self generated, a giant increase from 2019.
These are all terrifying realities for children and parents alike as the internet only continues to grow. In response parents must start to look into child safety features and increase their personal knowledge of what their kids are doing. It’s no longer enough to leave a kid be or for a parent to say they lack knowledge on how the internet works, when kids are spending over seven hours a day on the internet, that must be controlled.