Take note, parents: Study shows kids actively adapt your digital habits

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A new study by cybersecurity company Kaspersky shows that kids actively adapt the way they use devices based on their parents’ digital habits.

The study was conducted among 11,000 parents with children aged seven to twelve in 20 countries, including the USA, UK, Germany, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Its results demonstrated that majority of adults and kids (48% each) use their devices at the same time during the day for three to five hours.

Meanwhile, when 80% of parents spend less than two hours a day on devices, their children do too. If adults use their gadgets more than two hours per day, kids are just as likely to do the same, with only 19% doing otherwise.

In addition, kids whose parents spend more time behind the screen while carrying out other tasks are likely to emulate what they see at an increased rate.

For example, kids whose parents commonly use gadgets spend an additional 39 minutes online during meals. Meanwhile, texting while carrying on conversations adds to children an average of 41 minutes of screen time and sharing family photographs on social media adds a further 31 minutes per day — time that really adds up.

If kids can see that their parents are constantly using their devices, they will consider such behavior the norm and spend a lot of time online. Although sometimes it can be hard to be a role model, parents should be conscious of their actions on their children’s behavior and attempt to lead by example when it comes to rules around screen time.

“Children benefit far more from tangible interaction with the real world than from consuming digital information. Children younger than twelve, for example, still have a long way to go before their capacity for abstraction is comparable to that of an adult. They first have to learn to feel, hear, see, smell and taste the world,” said therapists Birgitt Hölzel and Stefan Ruzas from the Munich practice Liebling + Schatz.

“In our practice, too, parents’ and families’ use of digital media is always a prominent topic,” they continued. “Many parents are convinced that it is sufficient to clearly regulate their children’s media time and control the type of content they have access to. But instead of worrying about effective punishments, parents should first reduce their own media consumption.”

If you want to help your children and ensure they are using devices in a secure way, you can: 

  • Spend more time communicating with kids about online safety measures. Try paying attention to your own habits — do you use your smartphone when eating or chatting? See if there is a pattern with your kids doing the same or if they react in a different way when you put away the phone.  
  • Consider downloading parental control apps and discussing this topic with your child to explain how such apps work and why they need them to stay secure online. 
  • Ask your child not to agree with any privacy settings on their own and ask for parents’ help. Adults should get in the habit of reading any privacy agreements as well.

Read more: Parents’ digital dilemma: 61% of adults struggle to follow rules they set for their kids

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