I think that mobile devices are the worst nightmare of any parents. From smartphones to tables and iPads, we are all trying to keep up with the technology but in the same time to protect our kids from too long screen time. Indeed, we are a generation who grew up without any of these and don’t really know how to react. It is a real challenge nowadays as even homework can be done on mobile devices and there are so many apps that can engage the kids in a useful and educational way that is very confusing when it comes about time spent in front of the screen. And let’s be honest, a smartphone or a tablet is a life saver when going to a restaurant or having to keep the children busy in a public place or at home to have some chores done.
Internet is not a mystery anymore for kids and they all know about sending voice or written messages, an easy way to communicate these days. I don’t really think they will have to write a letter and mail it ever again and I had great fun reading a book with my daughter about having a “pen friend”. YouTube is my kids’ favorite channel, watching other people building Lego, unwrapping chocolate eggs or playing with dolls. Yep, they could do all these for real but apparently is more fun watching other people.
With all these new trends in mind, Norton by Symantec commissioned the research firm Edelman Intelligence to do the My First Device Research Report, an online survey of 6,986 parents aged 18+ years old, with children aged 5-16 across 10 markets as following: 5,974 European parents ages 18+ across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the United Kingdom. The Middle East sample reflects input from 1,012 parents ages 18+ across the United Arab Emirates and the KSA regarding their kids’ first mobile device. This 10-minute survey was in fieldwork between the 10th and the 20th of August 2018. The margin of error for the total sample is +/-.5%. Throughout the survey, they asked about connected devices when referring to smartphones or tablets that are connected to the internet and excluded from this specification are tablets or other devices designed specifically for young children.
What the research found regarding the UAE is that “children in the UAE desire mobile screen time more than candy or sweets. Further, children in the UAE spend more time in front of a mobile screen than playing outdoors, with more than one-quarter of parents saying their child or children spend more time than the parents spend online. On average across the UAE, children spend close to two and half hours of their leisure time on mobile devices every day, close to an hour longer than the average amount of time spent playing outdoors”. Actually, this doesn’t come as a surprise taking into consideration the climate we have to put up with here. When more than 6 months per year, spending time outside is next to impossible, there is no surprise that kids spend more time in front of their screens. Of course, there are alternatives like playing, reading or going to playdates but also these are kind of time limited, too. Probably this is also one of the causes why the kids in UAE are the youngest to receive their first mobile device. “Norton’s research shows that parents are giving in to pester power, as on average children in the UAE are getting their first device at seven- three years younger than parents feel their children should be allowed one. In the United Arab Emirates the difference is one of the greatest across EMEA, on average, children in other markets receive the first mobile device only one year earlier than when parents feel they should have them” shows the research. Well, my daughters don’t really have their own devices but my youngest, at 5 years old, knows very well where to find YouTube on my phone and on the tablet.
We also have to take into consideration the bad example offered by the parents. If we have our smartphones attached to our hands, the kids will have the same. The copy what we do and telling them off when we are constantly checking Facebook, WhatsUp and whatever else can be very frustrating. The good part is that parents realize this and according to the study 78% admit that they are setting a bad example and 53% admitted that kids answer back bringing up their behavior, “highlighting how today’s families are struggling to enforce healthy screen time routines in an increasingly connected world”, it says in the research. But there are also good news as the parents are willing to do something about it but the problem is that they don’t really know what and how. The research shows that “Almost three out of four parents in the UAE (71%) say they want to set limits and parental controls on connected devices, the highest number across EMEA, but they don’t know how to go about doing this, while 82 per cent want more advice and support to help them protect their children online, also the highest across EMEA”.
Here are some practical tips to help parents better manage device use, tips suggested by Norton:
Establish house rules and guidelines: these can include setting limits to screen time, the type of content a child accesses online or the appropriate tone of language to use online. These rules should vary depending on your children’s age, maturity and understanding of the risks they could face online. Encourage your children to go online in communal spaces: it’s about striking a balance where they don’t feel that you are constantly looking over their shoulder and don’t feel like they need to hide to go online. It will help put your mind at ease about what they are doing, and they’ll know they can come to you if they are confused, frightened or concerned.Encourage and maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with your children on Internet use and experiences, including cyberbullying. For helpful information on talking with your children about digital dangers, check out Norton’s Cyber Safety for Kids resources page. Encourage kids to think before they click: whether they’re looking at online video sites, receiving an unknown link in an email or even browsing the web, remind your child not to click on links, which may take them to dangerous or inappropriate sites. Clicking unknown links is a common way people get viruses or reveal private and valuable information about themselves.Look out for harmful content: from websites to apps, games and online communities, your kids have access to a lot of content that can affect them both positively and negatively. Using smart family security and parental web safety tools, as well as the built-in security settings in your browsers, can help the whole family stay safe. Discuss the risks of posting and sharing private information, videos, and photographs –Be a good role model. Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour, so lead by example.
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