Parents and caregivers commonly discuss children’s safety on the internet, and Digital Parenting resources offer guidance on how to protect them from the various hazards that exist online. People often depict the internet as a perilous environment for kids, and they rightfully do so.
It is crucial not to overlook the advantages that the internet provides us with, amidst the concerns about its potential hazards.
The potential dangers and risks of the internet can detract from the significant positive experiences that children and adolescents typically have online on a daily basis. She points out that this may result in an underestimation of the internet’s beneficial impact.Niamh Ní Bhroin – Researcher at the University of Oslo
Despite spending more time online than their European peers, Norwegian children, and adolescents consistently report some of the highest levels of self-reported well-being. This may come as a surprise to parents who are accustomed to worrying about their children’s screen time.
Since screen time doesn’t have a uniform impact on children, what distinguishes beneficial screen time from harmful screen time for some children?
Ms. Ní Bhroin and her colleagues sought to address this question through their research. They conducted interviews with 1001 children between the ages of nine and 16, investigating their experiences both on and off the screen. Their findings were subsequently published in the journal New Media & Society.
During the survey, the children were asked questions about their family, including whether and how their parents monitored their internet use.Ms. Ní Bhroin
The researchers also evaluated the children’s family and school environments by asking them to rate statements such as “My family is supportive” and “I feel secure at school,” Ms. Ní Bhroin explains. The number of hours spent online or the specific activities performed online do not appear to be the primary determinants of a child’s well-being. Rather, the researchers’ findings suggest that spending more time online leads to greater life satisfaction for children who have supportive family and school environments.
The notion that the same amount or type of screen time can affect different children in varying ways is not a novel idea. In 2021, Internet Matters conducted a survey of 14,449 children between the ages of 11 and 17. Of these, 6,500 children self-identified as having one or more vulnerabilities, such as being in foster care, having autism, or struggling with an eating disorder.
The study discovered that the UK’s most vulnerable two million children are 7 times more likely to experience harm online than their peers.
Feeling the Connection
The survey indicates that for even the most vulnerable children, it is not as simple as claiming that “screen time is dangerous.” The study acknowledges that while some vulnerable children may struggle to identify manipulative or controlling relationships online, this is not a universal experience. They note that young people can feel a sense of belonging and support, and some are even directed to online support groups by those who care for them.
The study’s findings are relatable to both parents and children. There are countless stories of teenagers around the world who are using digital platforms to enhance the lives and opportunities of their peers. According to the Internet Matters survey, approximately 69% of all teenagers, including vulnerable and non-vulnerable, feel that their online presence has provided them with a sense of connection and support.
According to the Internet Matters survey, while 62% of non-vulnerable teenagers agreed that the Internet opens up many possibilities for them, the figure was higher for vulnerable teenagers. Specifically, 86% of autistic teenagers in the survey and 82% of those with learning difficulties agreed with the statement.
According to the survey, owning a phone gives parents a sense of security, which results in their children have more freedom to explore the world on their own. According to the children, their mobile phones enriched their outdoor activities as they were able to listen to music and keep in contact with their parents and friends. It appears that with proper guidance and support, screen time can make children feel safer, healthier, and happier.