Youth Outlook: What Do Kids Say About Their Media Use?

In today’s digital era, screen usage often fuels parent-child conflicts, especially during adolescence. From disputes over owning a smartphone to signing up for social media accounts – these issues around media use can make it challenging to reconcile the tension between parental authority and child autonomy. However, screens are here to stay – making it critical for adults to understand and engage with youth to better support them. Now that we better understand how children interact with screens and media and the impact on their development, it is imperative for parents and caregivers to listen to where children themselves are coming from to help them become responsible digital citizens. Children are active agents who should contribute to and shape decisions made in their everyday lives. By acknowledging children’s views and involving them in conversations about media use habits, adults can strengthen the sense of trust and quality of their relationships with their children while promoting positive health outcomes.

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Extensive vs. Problematic Media Use: What’s the Difference?

“My daughter is always on the phone. If I try to take her phone away from her, she’ll have a meltdown. She’s constantly waiting for her friends to text her.” 

Parent Quote.

“If we don’t physically shut off our son’s computer at night, he’ll never sleep.”

Parent Quote.
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Snapchat to Minecraft: What Content Are Children Consuming Online? 

Screens are everywhere, but not all screens are created equal. Children use screens and media for a variety of purposes; however, the quality of the content matters. There’s a distinction between learning from educational videos online versus mindlessly scrolling through YouTube Shorts for hours on end. Research shows that content heavily influences a child’s thoughts, actions, and beliefs. Thus, it’s important for parents to know how their child is utilizing devices. In this article, we’ll share existing literature that highlights what children are viewing and how they are engaging with the online world so that parents and caregivers can make informed decisions about their children’s screen use. We’ll also share some tips to help parents ensure that the content that children view is both safe and age-appropriate. 

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Screen Time Usage: Pre-Pandemic, Pandemic, & the Present

Even prior to the pandemic, children’s access to and the duration of screen use has been on the rise. From 2015 to 2019, entertainment screen use went up by 3% for tweens and 11% for teens. Children’s engagement with certain types of digital devices varies by age, but television appears highly popular among kids of all ages. Between 1999 and 2009, the prevalence of televisions in children’s bedrooms increased from 65% to 71%. Now, with the use of streaming services, children can more easily access entertainment media content on their own devices, as more than two-thirds of kids own a smartphone by age 12. 

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Parenting in the Age of Screens

“I have noticed both my older children are quicker to anger after screens are taken away. They ask for screen time constantly and are in a terrible mood when I say no.”

– Parent Quote

“I don’t like how my son comes home from school straight to playing video games, but he says that his friends are all playing together. How can I limit screens without isolating him?” 

– Parent Quote

“My daughter says her entire soccer team is on Snapchat, but I worry that if I let her get the app, I’ll have no control over what she’s posting and seeing. I feel really torn.” 

– Parent Quote
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