When parents think about online risks for their teens, many only think about inappropriate websites, online bullying, and social media, to name a few. But what if the effects of being online 24/7 stay with your teen even when they aren't sitting at the computer? Teens being online can cause deeper, more prominent issues that all parents should be aware of.
3 Teen Online Risks Parents Don’t Think About, But Should!
1. The Issue: Sleep Deprivation
The Common Cause: Teens Are Online When They Should Be Sleeping
The Reason: In this digital age of online risks, kids want to be connected 24/7 to their peers, especially using social media. It shouldn’t be any great surprise that 55 percent of kids are online late at night and up to 75 percent use cellphones. It’s also hard for kids (and many adults) to delay immediate gratification, so your child may not have the will power to resist looking at a text at 1:00 A.M., especially when it could be the most important text ever.
The Impact: The impact of sleep deprivation can be very consequential, from impairing the cognitive ability that kids need to do well in school to impacting health and altering the activity of genes.
The Solution: Teens should be getting a full nine hours of sleep a night. Help them get it by taking those cellphones, tablets and computers out of their bedrooms! If this doesn’t work for you, then monitor their online activity at night, using monitoring software with a recording feature. Then teach your kids the value of sleep and the impact that sleep deprivation has on their well being. Maybe then they will be willing to put those devices away on their own.
2. The Issue: Multitasking & Homework
The Common Cause: Too Many Distractions Online
The Reason: Many of us think we’re great multitaskers. We may even brag about being able to juggle several things at once. But scientists say we’re just fooling ourselves. The reality is that “for every task added, performance degrades,” says Dr. Sherry Turkle of MIT.
This is important to understand because when kids are using the computer for homework they have a difficult time resisting the urge to chat with friends on Facebook, play a game or watch a video, all at the same time.
The Impact: Sure we can all perform automated tasks like walking and chewing gum at the same time or folding laundry while listening to music, but it’s the cognitive tasks that require individual focus that are a problem. When kids are distracted during homework time, their results may suffer, they won’t retain the information they are expected to learn, and they will likely take significantly longer to get their homework done.
The Solution: Teach your child to have specific study time to focus on just their homework without other distractions when they are on the computer, and then allow them time for other computer activities. Parents might also try giving their child short breaks during homework time for other activities. The concept of getting work done, doing a good job and then playing is an important life skill. Parents need to help teach this skill. To teach this skill, check-in on your child’s computer activity regularly. If physical check-ins seem too easy to evade, you can use a computer monitoring tool that allows you to check in live or review your child’s computer activity later. Eventually your child will be able to show that they’ve learned to get their homework done without distraction and without being supervised.
3. The Issue: Excessive Use of the Computer
The Common Cause: Our Online Culture
The Reason: The digital world is here to stay and we want our kids to fully embrace it because of the many wonderful benefits. But like many things in life such as eating, drinking alcohol, or gambling, computers can be used to excess and to the detriment of a healthy life. A pediatric study says that more than a third of kids are using the computer for “three or more hours daily playing video games or using a computer for something other than school.”
The Impact: Three hours a day is a huge chunk of a kid’s day, time when they could be engaging in other healthy activities, like playing outside, face to face time with friends or school work. Obesity has become a serious problem for today’s youth as well, and sitting in front of the computer for hours on end only exacerbates this health risk.
The Solution: Monitor and limit the amount of time your child spends on the computer. Make sure to differentiate using the computer for academic reasons vs. entertainment reasons. Talk to them frequently about what it means to have a healthy balanced life.
The Online World and Offline World are one and the same for kids today. It’s imperative that parents be part of both worlds in order to fully parent and understand all of the risks, threats and consequences of their child’s online activity and behavior. Only then can parents educate their children about how to use computer devices in positive ways that will help them to be successful in their digital world. Start today to educate yourself about what your kids are doing and how they’re behaving online!
I am a firm believer that the more parents know, the safer our kids will be!