Renee's Round-up: Parenting in the Digital Age

There is no doubt that technology and the internet are daily altering nearly every aspect of American families’ lives. This week, we’ve rounded up recent reports and investigations about the challenges and opportunities of growing up in the digital age, and the race for parents and policy-makers to keep up as children and teens adopt new technology.

A recent survey by Common Sense Media—a welcome new member of the kids’ advocacy community—confirmed what most parents intuitively know: kids and teens spend a staggering amount of time consuming digital media. Between TV, social media, music, and video games, teenagers today are spending one-third of their days—nearly nine hours—looking at screens or wearing headphones, the study found.

The study also looked at the disparities facing low-income children and teens when it comes to media use. As schools increasingly incorporate digital platforms into their lessons and assignments, many students without reliable access to a computer resort to typing out essays on their smartphones.

Another study, conducted by the Family Online Safety Institute, looked at the ways that parents respond to kids’ digital media consumption. While parents are generally optimistic about the impact that technology will have for their kids, the study found, many are concerned about how much screen-time kids spend and what they get up to online.

And as young people’s social interactions increasingly take place online, they are exposed to new kinds of risks. Parents and policy-makers are struggling to protect children’s privacy and prevent bullying and harassment. A shocking investigative report from the New York Times Magazine shone a light on the practice of “swatting”—when online hackers dispatch a real-life police SWAT team to their victims’ (usually young women and girls) homes or schools.
If that makes the internet sound like a scary place… it probably is. But parents are also adapting quickly to new technology. The FOSI study found that 55% of parents often use technology with their children, one way to help keep them safe online. And—as a bonus—their kids can probably teach them a thing or two!