How Much is Too Much? (Time on the Internet)

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As some of you know, my wife, Amy, and I have a 13, 9, and 7 year old. They are incredible in so many ways—and so is my sense of responsibility with their potential and my protection of it. 

One of the opportunities and potential dangers their childhood exposes them to that mine did not is the Internet. Youth-oriented consumption of online content is an opportunity to be embraced and problem to be solved. My parents and the generations before them did not have to consider the risks of their children being over-exposed or under-supervised when it comes to the Internet. To ignore or dismiss its potential impact will most certainly make us and those we love subject to it.

POTENTIAL PENALTIES

Here’s some information from HealthyChildren.org in regards to the dangers of too much screen time. (Of course, I could do a number of posts on the positive qualities of the Internet!)

  • Obesity - Teens who watch more than 5 hours of TV per day are 5 times more likely to be overweight than teens who watch 0 to 2 hours. Watching TV for more than 1.5 hours daily is a risk factor for obesity for children 4 through 9 years of age. 
  • Sleep problems - Children and teens who spend more time with social media or who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. 
  • Problematic Internet use - Children who overuse online media can be at risk for problematic Internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. 
  • Negative effect on school performance - Children and teens often use entertainment media at the same time that they're doing other things, such as homework
  • Risky behaviors -  Teens' displays on social media often show risky behaviors, such as substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury, or eating disorders. 
  • Sexting, privacy, and predators -  About 12% of youth age 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely. 
  • Cyberbullying - Cyberbullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target. 

Having designed and built websites, owning over 100+ domains and working for years on a social media platform, this is a topic I have given dozens of hours of thought to. Here are the recently refreshed rules we are living into at the Carroll house, to include my wife and I’s social media use:

WEEKDAYS (Monday-Thursday):

No Internet before 9:00 am or after 9:00 pm

One hour per day with an extra hour given for every hour of reading per day

Extra time online can also be purchased for $1 per minute spent online

WEEKENDS (Friday-Sunday):

No Internet before 12:00 pm or after 12:00 am

Two hours per day with an extra hour given for every hour of reading per day

Extra time online can also be purchased for $1 per minute spent online

All of these rules came into existence after having a family meeting and talking through the importance of balanced Internet use. I made sure to let each family member participate in the conversation and influence our family Internet policy.

ACCOUNTABILITY IS KING

Accountability is everything in this situation. We are currently using Qustodio; this is the best platform I have found for both monitoring and protecting my family online. The cost is $100 per year for up to 10 devices. This breaks down to less than 3 cents per day, per device - well worth it. 

LAST NOTE

Your children will not like this—at least not initially—especially if they are used to getting as much screen time as they want. However, research reveals children really do want and need boundaries. Although they might push back at first, the boundaries ultimately end up making them feel safe as they tend to hedge them in. After a few days of implementing our desired direction, our children were noticeably better: better behaved, less irritated, more social, and definitely more goal oriented and driven.

New opportunities come with the potential for new rewards — but they carry new risks. As a loving and caring dad, I do not want to make new mistakes that could have been prevented. The future is too important!