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Smartphones offer countless benefits to children and their parents. From allowing face to face conversation at any time to retrieving their child’s location, it’s no wonder why so many parents want to get their children smartphones. Since Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas are all coming up soon – we’re expecting to see surges in smartphone sales.
Many of these sales will be by the parents of children who need smartphones to stay connected to their classrooms. The question remains: is it safe to give children access to smartphones? Children are likelier to get addicted to phones as they have less impulse control. Smartphone manufacturers and app developers purposely exploit this by designing their devices and apps to be as addictive as possible.
According to a Pew Research Center study:
• 95% of teenagers have access to smartphones.
• 45% of teenagers claim they use the internet “constantly.”
• 65% of parents reported feeling concerned about how much screen time their kids get.
Common Sense Media recently reported that children between the ages of 8-12 spend up to 5-hours/day staring at their phone screens. For children under 8, it’s 2.5 hours a day of daily screen time. Teenagers above the age of 12 spend over seven hours a day staring at phone screens.
According to Common Sense Media, nearly 70% of children in the US own smartphones before turning 12. The numbers that reveal the proliferation of technology in children’s day-to-day lives have all doubled/tripled over the past decade. But, all this data predates the COVID19 pandemic, which made over 1.5+ billion children homebound for long periods.
Stuck at home, these children spent even more time in front of screens. In the early days of the COVID19 pandemic, Internet activity on kids’ devices doubled. Access to smartphones gave children opportunities to create social connections and continue their education. But, increased smartphone usage has also exposed them to some unique challenges.
How does increased screen time impact kids’ physical health, mental health, and overall development? According to recent studies, unregulated access to smartphones can cause the following effects on kinds’ mental health:
• Sleep issues
• Vision Impairment
• Low self-esteem
• Social anxiety
• Inability or difficulty engaging in in-person interactions
• Negative body image
Cyberbullying is a major risk factor for children who have unregulated access to smartphones. Victims of cyberbullying are known to suffer from a number of issues that are often carried right through to adulthood. But, in some aspects, access to smartphones during the COVID19 pandemic has been a double-edged sword for children.
The upsides of smartphones include –
• The opportunity for kids to continue their education.
• Maintain connections with friends and family members.
• The mental health of some children with social anxiety has improved because of remote learning.
• According to one study, in times of crisis, using social media platforms to connect with friends/family improves mental health.
Unfortunately, the other side of the double-edged sword can be too harsh on some children. Children who spent too much time staring at their smartphone screens in partial isolation experienced various psychological problems.
For children and teenagers, pandemic-related stresses and the absence of in-person social contact led to rises in cases involving –
• Issues with nervous changes
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Anorexia-related illnesses
• Exposure to cyberbullying
• Exposure to online predators
Parents face a dilemma: give their kids “digital freedom” or “protect” them by not giving them access to smartphones. Most parents realize that restricting or even limiting kids’ access to smartphones and the Internet could affect their development. Children may feel left out in social circles and not learn how to use the latest technologies.
However, this also means potentially exposing kids to the countless threats that come with smartphone and Internet access. Once parents give their children smartphones, some activities go beyond their capacity of control. Unless parents can define the boundaries of their kids’ “digital freedom” with the help of parental control apps.
What are Parental Control Apps?
Parental control apps are robust security software tools that enable parents to set controls/restrictions on their children’s digital devices. They help parents monitor their kids’ smartphone activities. Parents can assist their kids in navigating the online world safely and with strict screen time restrictions with parental control apps.
Here are some reasons why parental control apps can solve the dilemma of giving/not giving children smartphones for parents –
Parental Control Apps Help Parents Limit the Time their Children Spend on the Internet
With over 45% of teenagers claiming that they’re online “constantly,” management of screen time for adolescents is critical in 2021. Parents must draw the line by using parental control apps to set up dedicated screen time schedules for their kids. For instance, the child protection app called MMGuardian allows parents to –
• Monitor how many messages their children send or receive via texts or on major social messaging platforms.
• Parents receive comprehensive reports on how their children browsed the Internet. From text history to geolocations – parents receive daily reports that outline their children’s internet activities.
• Parents can also block or temporarily disable apps on their children’s devices with the MMGuardian app.
• Parents can set up customized schedules to block/unblock certain apps within specified time limits. For instance, they can make education-related apps accessible 24×7 but block distractive apps like YouTube or TikTok at night.
Parental Control Apps Allow Parents to Oversee their Children’s Safety
In a recent survey, 90% of children between the ages of 8-16 claimed they were exposed to online pornography. 70% of them claimed it was by accident. Parental Control apps like Norton Family or Google’s Family Link can be used to set up “adult only” content filters on children’s devices.
Content filters significantly reduce the chances of kids “accidentally” accessing inappropriate apps, websites, or Internet content. These filters can be customized by parents to block any type of content that they deem inappropriate. For instance, they can block all sites that display violent acts, gambling websites, etc.
With tools like MMGuardian, parents can even go one step further and set up “Safety Alerts.” The AI-powered app automatically detects the presence of concerning messages detected on the child’s device. For instance, if a child is having a conversation that involves words like “drugs” or “sex” (or even emojis in place of words), the tool detects the content and notifies the parents.
At any given time of the day, there are 500,000+ sexual predators on the Internet. The worst fear of all parents is their children coming in contact with such online predators. Parental control apps give parents complete control over who their children find or contact on the Internet.
Parental Control Apps Help Prevent Cyberbullying
Effective parental control apps instantly flag any suspicious activity detected on a child’s phone. Be it a stranger or a classmate – whenever children are exposed to inappropriate messages or threats from questionable individuals, these apps notify the parents. Partial oversight over children’s social media activities, text messages, emails, etc., also helps parents safeguard their children’s mental health.
What Phone To Get Your Child? ANDROID!
It’s no secret that all of the kids want iPhones these days. They have become a status symbol and the cool phone to have. However, Apple is extremely restrictive when it comes to parental controls.
For parents who want the maximum amount of monitoring capabilities and protection for their child, Android is the way to go. In addition to being less expensive, Androids allow for much more robust parental controls. For example, no app can currently monitor Snapchat messages on iPhones, but MMGuardian is capable of showing parents all chat conversations from Snapchat on Android. That is just one of many advantages that Android has over iPhone.
The best Parental Control apps give parents total control over their children’s devices without hampering their privacy. Parents can use tools like MMGuardian from their phones and tailor the types of monitoring/restrictions they put in place for their children. Maintaining this control is critical for any parent who wants to give their children access to smartphones this holiday season.