Mar 11, 2019
With the rise in tech devices, social media, and online activities, the way kids are spending their time after school has drastically changed. Society as a whole is navigating the new landscape of children’s free time in a high-tech world, and parents are often left wondering: What is the best way to let my kids use and learn from technology, while also keeping them safe?
The main concern of many parents is the content that is being consumed. The Internet is home to countless pornography sites, inappropriate videos and images, dating websites and apps, and social media platforms where children and teens can be exposed to harmful content as well as potential online predators. Another concern for parents is how time-consuming Internet time can become. It’s so easy for kids to get lost for hours in a game, watching videos, or scrolling social media that their other priorities are neglected.
In addition to keeping them safe while they’re online, the Internet can be extremely time-consuming and get in the way of other important day-to-day activities.
By using parental control software, parents can block websites that kids can visit, which makes for a great way to keep them safe, but another tactic is simply limiting kids’ Internet time after school.
Why Parents Should Limit Internet Time
While the Internet has completely changed the way we communicate, learn, and function in our daily lives, there are some setbacks to its constant use, especially for kids and teens. It cuts into other important daily activities like spending time with family and friends, in-person social interaction, homework, study time, and physical activity.
Often overlooked, the serious consequences of too much Internet time can impact your kids in a big way. As parents it is your responsibility to teach your kids how to use the Internet mindfully as well as how to stay safe when browsing the web. Doing so will help set the entire family up for success while they surf the web.
Screen Time and Digital Health
Screen time has led to new problems that were not as big of a concern before the Internet. Now that we are able to spend so much time online, on-the-go, many are choosing screens over alternatives and today’s childhood looks much different from those in the past. Parents of children who are getting excessive screen time could see changes in behavior as well as impacts on their developing brains.
While the Internet is an incredible tool, spending too much time online or in front of screens, and not enough time being active can lead to:
- Childhood obesity
- Psychological problems
- Troubles in school
- Attention problems
- Eating and sleeping disorders
- Internet addiction
Curb Internet Addiction
Internet addiction has become a big concern for many parents. In an attempt to curb tech addiction, some of the most successful tech industry professionals have surprisingly strict Internet rules and restrictions, including Apple founder, Steve Jobs.
According to an article in the NY Times, Jobs was considered a “low tech parent”. Another tech pro, Alex Constantinople, OutCast Agency’s chief executive, doesn’t allow her children to use tech devices and gadgets at all during the week and her older pre-teen children are only allowed 30 minutes of tech time a day.
By limiting the time a child or teen can be online after school, parents are making it more feasible for kids to take on other activities like sports, playing outside, spending time with friends, or quality time with family.
Manage Internet Safety
Setting Internet time limits also makes it easier for parents to monitor their kids’ online activities and helps them avoid inappropriate content or potentially dangerous situations online. When they only have an allotted time to use the Internet, they are less likely to peruse random websites or get involved in cyberbullying because they have to use their time wisely.
Block Websites and Internet Access When Kids Are Alone
Setting restrictions on Internet use at certain times is a great way to protect your kids from potentially harmful online activities and encourages them to use their time appropriately. Kids and teens are less likely to participate in unhealthy online behavior when someone else is present. A good time to restrict or limit Internet time is after bedtime or while parents or guardians are out of the house.
Parental control software, like Net Nanny, offers a screen time management feature that helps parents monitor just how much time their children are spending online, even while the parents are away. Parental controls allow parents to block websites that are harmful and set specific times of day a child can access the Internet and any changes to the schedule are restricted to the parent only.
4 Tips for Limiting Screen and Internet Time
Putting restrictions or limitations on kids’ online time and activities can be difficult, especially since many parents aren’t as tech savvy as their teens. For families who are used to plenty of screen time, any changes or new limitations might come as a shock so it’s important to communicate with your kids about why healthy tech boundaries are important.
Here are a few tips for setting healthy and effective limitations:
- Teach children that using the Internet for entertainment is a privilege that is earned after other responsibilities (i.e. homework, chores, studying, or sports/instrument practices) are finished.
- Plan family or friend activities that do not include the Internet or watching TV. Rather than simply placing restrictions on using tech devices, have a family dinner or game night planned, or a sports event for them to take part in. This helps alleviate the loss of their Internet time, by giving them a fun alternate activity to do instead.
- Keep all laptops, smartphones, and computers in a shared space where kids can use them in the presence of family.
- Lead by example. Practice healthy tech and Internet use as a parent so your kids have a strong role model. Detach from your phone while spending time with them and don’t let your devices become a distraction from home life.
The Internet is a powerful tool that helps us all learn and grow. It’s a big part of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be restrictions. Setting time and place limitations on Internet access is a great way to help keep your kids active, social, and safe in the digital age.
Finding a balance when it comes to tech use can benefit your family in a number of ways but it isn’t always the easiest. If you are struggling with how to set Internet time limits, consider using a parental control software, like Net Nanny, to manage screen time, view alerts and reporting about your child’s online activity, and more. Parental control software makes monitoring Internet use easier and can help ensure that the whole family gets to enjoy time both on and offline.
Set clear boundaries for tech use by checking out 4 Reasons Why You Need a Family Contract.
Carli Leavitt is a public relations specialist and avid blogger who is passionate about the safety of children in the digital age. Follow her on Twitter @CarliLeavitt