Over the past few decades, the Internet has gone from being a niche communication platform to one of the most transformative innovations of the past century. As it has grown in prominence and popularity, it has fundamentally changed how we work, learn, and socialize. According to the International Telecommunication Union, over the past 20 years we’ve gone from having roughly 8% of the world’s population online to more than 53%. Of course, among that sizable chunk of the population are many children and teenagers.

Back in the ‘90s, children generally only had internet access if they were at school or if they had the direct approval of their parents. After all, the dial-up connections of the era made it readily apparent if someone was online, as you would typically only be able to have one person using the Internet at a time in a given household. However, with the rise of cellphones, tablets, and smart devices, young people have far greater access to the internet than ever before. While the internet is an important part of our everyday lives, many parents are unaware of just how much time their children spend online.

How Kids Use The Internet

Since they’ve grown up alongside the internet, younger people are generally much more comfortable with it and have much greater access to it. Around 88% of 13- and 17-year-olds in the United States have access to a desktop or laptop computer, with approximately 97% and 93% of girls and boys respectively having access to a smartphone. As such, teenagers are arguably the age-group that performs the most activities online. This also coincides with research on home internet usage: a recent study shows that around 41% of children ages 3-5 use the internet at home, compared with 57% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 71% of 12- to 17-year-olds.

What Kids Do Online

Kids have many different reasons for using the internet, but they generally match up with the major reasons that most people go online: staying informed, entertained, and connected with their friends and family. That sense of connection is especially important, as teenagers have often reported that they feel less lonely and more popular when using social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. However, this feeling of connectedness can also backfire, as similar research shows that teenagers who are already dealing with low social-emotional well-being often feel left out or excluded when using social media. It shows that while there are many potential benefits to spending time online, it can also have an adverse effect on young people during what is already a trying point in their lives.

The Dangers of Screen Time

Even if children aren’t specifically “online,” there is a growing concern about how much “screen time” they have access to. Screen time in this case refers to any time spent in front of a digital screen of any kind, including television and video games. It is estimated that children and young people between 8- to 28-years-old spend about 44.5 hours per week in front of digital screens. Too much screen time has been tied to everything from difficult sleeping and obesity to depression and ADD. Furthermore, it can be difficult to curb, as many kids get the majority of their screen time from mobile devices, which can be more difficult to monitor than a desktop computer.

Keeping Kids Safe

The internet is an important part of our day-to-day lives, but it doesn’t necessarily prepare our children for real interpersonal relationships. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have access to it, as the Internet is essential to their education and enrichment. But it is the duty of parents to monitor their online activities, limit their internet usage, and take measures to protect them from potential threats.

If you are concerned about the kind of content your children are experiencing online, consider investing in our web filtering tools. We at Clean Internet pride ourselves for protecting people’s families as they work, learn, and have fun. You can learn more about our services on our website, or by contacting us by calling (219) 728-5030 or email us at support@cleaninter.net.