Raising Kids in a Digital World: Top Takeaways from Our 2017 Connected Family Survey

Today’s world is certainly a digital one. Everything, from the stores where we shop to the messages we send to one another, interacts with the internet in some fashion—and sometimes in ways that aren’t exactly secure. In fact, risky interactions with the Web can even extend to the homes and family. So, what impact (good or bad) does the digital world truly have on today’s families?

To better understand family habits and attitudes towards the connected lifestyle, we conducted a global survey of 13,000 adults about their children’s digital habits, how they, as parents, supervised internet time and more. The results are, well, telling. Here’s what we found:

Kids are spending more time on digital devices than ever before

This one is not surprising, but we now have statistics to back it up: Children today are spending more time in front of a screen than ever before. In fact, about 20 percent of respondents say they allow their children three to four hours of screen time per day. The majority, 48 percent, allow their children a solid one to two hours a day. This includes use before bedtime, alone and when children interact with friends.

To expand, 76 percent of parents allow their child to bring an internet-connected device to bed. Perhaps predictably, almost a quarter of parents today don’t monitor how their children use a device before bed.

This isn’t to say those parents aren’t worried—80 percent of parents said they’re concerned about who their child interacts with online—rather, they simply don’t know how to monitor their child’s browsing habits and interactions.

Parents aren’t sure how to manage kids’ screen time

Digital devices are new. So are the social mores that go with them. This means there’s a lot of tension over device use within the family. In fact, about 32 percent of respondents said they’ve argued with their child about bringing a device to bed.

So how do parents today govern device use? It boils down to two methods: the tried and true method of confiscation (35 percent), and, for the tech savvy, monitoring software (23 percent). But monitoring methods are going to have to change—and likely towards the more technical side of things. The reason is simple: the more time a child spends online, the more likely they’ll be present (or actively seek out) age-inappropriate content. In fact, 34 percent of responding parents report they have discovered their child has visited an inappropriate website.

So, what’s the answer? New solutions, such as McAfee Secure Home Platform can help you manage and protect devices connected to your home network while providing parental controls that can be suited to the needs of all age groups. Perhaps more critical to the healthy use of today’s digital devices is simply talking to children about today’s dangers online. The good news is that a lot of parents already do this. A solid 85 percent of respondents say they at least occasionally talk to their children about online dangers. Conversely, and perhaps a bit naively, the parents who don’t talk to their children say they believe their children already know about online dangers and don’t need more discussion on this topic.

Overall, this survey brings to light the confusion parents feel about how to keep their families safe online, especially in light of increased device usage – pointing to the need for better solutions. Here are a few tips and tricks parents can keep in mind when raising their children alongside digital devices, to help us start closing that gap.

  • Discuss online safety early and often. Start talking with your children about online safety early and often. It’ll likely help heighten security awareness as children get older. Make sure you talk to them about cyber threats, such as phishing attacks, and the basics of safe online behavior—starting with avoiding strangers on the Web.
  • Practice what you preach. If you’re going to lay out rules for device use (and you should) make sure you follow them as well. Children are experts at picking out parental contradictions, so make sure the rules you set are reasonable. Finally, you can set a good example for device use by abiding by good device etiquette (e.g.: don’t use your phone at the table during dinner, don’t hold a conversation while browsing on a device, etc.).
  • Educate yourself. Finally, you can’t teach what you don’t know. Take the time to research the various devices your children either use, or are planning on acquiring in the future. Make sure you also read up on any new social media accounts they may want to join. This should give you a better idea of the community these devices and networks foster, as well as how you can protect your children from cybercriminals.


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