×

We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Parents worry about children's social media habits during pandemic

New SA research shows youngsters misjudge their screen time use

21 December 2020 - 10:16 By claire keeton
Lifestyle changes, particularly increased screen time, are a major concern for American parents during the pandemic.
Lifestyle changes, particularly increased screen time, are a major concern for American parents during the pandemic.
Image: 123RF/Cathy Yeulet

Overuse of social media and internet safety were among the top five concerns shared by black, white and Hispanic parents in a new US study released on Monday.

Nearly half the black and Hispanic respondents also felt Covid-19 was a “big problem”, ranking it among their top 10, the national poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found.

Racism was the number one health concern among black parents, ahead of Covid-19 in second place.

White parents did not flag racism or Covid-19 in their top 10, while Hispanic parents ranked racism at number six and Covid-19 at number eight.

Covid-19 has affected African-American and Hispanic communities in the US disproportionately, with unequal access to health care contributing to more illness and death among them.

There are key racial and ethnic differences among families when it comes to worries about children's health, according to a new report.
There are key racial and ethnic differences among families when it comes to worries about children's health, according to a new report.
Image: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at Michigan Medicine

Mott paediatrician Dr Gary Freed, co-director of the national poll. said: “Parents' biggest concerns for young people seem to be associated with changes in lifestyle as a result of the pandemic. Covid-19 has turned the world of our children and teens upside down in many ways, and this is reflected in how parents rate health issues in 2020.

“This is an especially challenging time for families, with many children experiencing significant changes in routine that may negatively impact their health and wellbeing,” he said.

More than 2,000 parents with children 18 years old or younger responded to the poll, raising their concerns related to their children’s disruption of schooling, sport and social relationships.

Unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and depression were among the biggest worries, along with social media use, among the children and teens.

Freed said parents should worry less about the amount of time children are using devices and more about how they are using the technology.

“It's important for children and teens to maintain social and family connections we know are critical for their emotional wellbeing, especially during a time when they are feeling stressed or isolated,” he said.

All parents flagged concerns around overuse of social media and internet safety in the US poll.
All parents flagged concerns around overuse of social media and internet safety in the US poll.
Image: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll

New research in SA among young adults (18 to 25 years old) revealed they underestimate how much time they spend on their phones on weekends, though they overestimate their week day usage.

UCT psychology graduate Leora Hodes, from the cyberpsychology team, said: “Specifically, our analyses revealed screen time was heavier over weekends so, yes, it is normal to find yourself spending more time scrolling over the weekend.”

The 260 volunteers in this study were undergraduates from Western Cape universities.

Hodes found that during the hard lockdown, screen time went up significantly.

Younger adults are “more attached” to their phones than older adults, from 30 to 60 years old, research has shown.

Freed recommended parents set clear ground rules for using devices among children and teens to protect their sleep, privacy and healthy habits, such as physical activity.

“Parents should also watch for any signs of cyberbullying and other types of online abuse,” he said, encouraging conversations between parents and their children, particularly about their feelings, and that they be alert to greater stress, anxiety and depression.

“Parents may notice changes such as increased behavioural issues in younger children or more moodiness or lethargy from older children and teenagers,” Freed said.

Families should consider professional help if children are showing dramatic changes in mood, appetite or sleep.

Intentional “unplugged” times together as a family and getting outside daily, even for a brisk walk, were advised.

Racism takes a heavy emotional toll on children and teens and can instil a feeling of helplessness, said Freed.

“When young people are empowered to stand up to racism, it can make a big difference.”

TimesLIVE


subscribe