(StatePoint) Screen time is on the rise for kids and teens as a result of remote learning and social distancing measures. At the same time, cyberbullying and hate speech are reaching new heights amid the current crisis, according to analysts.
A recent new study conducted by L1ght recorded a 70 percent uptick in hate among children and teens during online chats since December 2019. While this is worrying, there are steps parents can take to help protect kids from the surge of online toxicity they may be encountering:
• Pay attention: There are many common red flags that a child is either involved in cyberbullying or a victim of it. Those who are instigating or participating in cyberbullying may exhibit increased secrecy around their mobile device or laptop, display arrogance or have other behavioral problems. Signs your child is a target of cyberbullies include depression and anxiety, (particularly while or after using their device), problems with sleeping, changes in appetite, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Communicate: Open a line of dialogue with your child about what they are experiencing, but be patient. Your child may be reticent to share everything going on with you at first. It can be helpful to draw in the assistance of another adult role model or even a professional therapist. If your child is the one doing the bullying, work on identifying their motivations, so you can better address the root of the issue, and of course, continue to serve as a positive role model when it comes to expressing empathy and kindness toward others.
Keep kids active: When remote class time is not in session, it’s important to place an emphasis on spending quality time offline. Encourage kids to be physically active outdoors in order to raise levels of mood-boosting hormones and promote better sleep at night (something that may be suffering more these days as a result of additional blue light from screens). If possible, arrange for socially distanced meet-ups with close friends, such as bike rides. Get kids involved in positive hobbies like reading, playing an instrument or art.
Manage screen time: As parents know, actually managing screen time can be tricky. Kids are not always upfront about what they are doing online and there are many hours a day where it’s simply impossible to monitor your child. However, new tools are proving essential in helping parents protect kids from the harmful effects of cyberbullying. For example, OurPact from Eturi Corp. is an app that allows parents to set online schedules for kids, as well as grant or restrict access to websites and apps. Parents can also take screenshots of online activity to ensure their kids are staying safe. These can also be used to facilitate discussions regarding smart digital health. To learn more or download, visit OurPact.com.
While the “new normal” has caused a dangerous uptick in toxic online behaviors, parents have new tools at their disposal to help protect kids.