‘Tis the Season to be Busy: How holiday busyness leads to greater Internet dangers
Are you neglecting your child’s safety this holiday season?
For many people, one of the hallmarks of the holiday season is a period of intense busyness. Between office parties and turkey dinners, Christmas concerts and Christmas shopping, most people use the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas to spread feelings of joy and goodwill to loved ones.
The downside of this increased busyness is that it’s easy to neglect other important things. Normal daily responsibilities often leave parents too busy to monitor their kids’ Internet use. Are you allowing the additional activities of the season to distract you from protecting your kids online?
How Time Pressures on Parents Impact Internet Use
Under normal circumstances, parents have limited time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 66% of households with children under 18 were dual-income in 2009. This results in a growing number of latch-key kids; as many as half of American children are home alone for 5-7 hours each week.
Of course, even when parents are around, they may be disengaged from their family. A 2011 study found that 50% of Internet users sometimes or often felt ignored because another member of the household spent too much time online.
One result is that parents have little time to monitor their child’s Internet use. Another study reported that 47% of adults rarely supervise minors on the Internet, and 27% of children are left completely unsupervised.
And where does this leave kids?
- 67% of kids have cleared their browser history or cache to make sure their parents couldn’t view their online activity.
- Nearly 90% of sexual solicitations of youth online are made in chat rooms, and the average age of a child’s first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old.
- The largest consumers of Internet pornography are kids ages 12 to 17.
Safeguarding Kids Through Christmas and Beyond
If these stats reflect the time restraints parents face during normal seasons, it’s reasonable to infer that they are worse during the holidays, when the social obligations are doubled for many people. The good news is, there are some habits you can put in place during this busy time that will help throughout the year.
1. Build your child’s Internet safety into your schedule.
Covenant Eyes Accountability Reports are tailor-made for conversations about Internet use…but if you’re just letting your kids’ reports sit in your e-mail inbox until you have time to deal with them, they’ll fall by the wayside. To avoid this, schedule half an hour each week to review each child’s report and have a conversation about what they do online.
Need more details about why this is important or how to use Reports to start conversations? Watch our 16-minute video, Porn and Your Kids.
2. Set a “No Phones at the Table” rule.
The average person sends an average of 48 text messages a day. The average child under the age of 18 sends 108. And the average 15-18 year old spends over an hour a day consuming media on his phone. Mobile phones have unquestionably made it easier to communicate quickly at long distance, but the ability to multitask has also made it temptingly easy to ignore the people you’re with.
Instead of responding to your coworker’s questions about the cookie baking contest or posting a picture of that perfectly roasted turkey to Instagram, have your family turn all phones off at dinner and family times. Resist the tyranny of the urgent, and instead use each mealtime to build quality memories with your family. Almost everything your family wants to do on their phones can wait half an hour while you eat.
Consider setting time limits on your Internet use in general as well. For instance, limit yourself to checking e-mail and Facebook twice a day, and set a time limit of an hour for Internet use in the evening in general. Use the extra free time to go ice skating or build a snowman with your kids instead.
3. Use technology to your advantage.
Of course, there are many good ways to use technology this season as well. Do you have a smartphone? Use it to take a video of your kids singing a Christmas carol and send it to their grandparents. Hooked on Pinterest? Instead of staring for hours at pictures of everybody else’s decorations, create a “Christmas Wish List” board as a handy reference when people ask you what you’d like for a gift. (Just be aware that they may see inappropriate content as well.) Use Facebook’s Events tool to organize the details of who is bringing what food to your small group’s potluck.
Remember, you don’t necessarily have to give up technology to focus on your family. For most people, the idea of a fast from technology is unrealistic anyway. But by being more intentional about how you use technology and how you prioritize your family, you’ll set good habits that will last you well into the new year.
Issue 26 | November 2012 | More in this issue: Hope After Porn: Our Marriage Would Never Be the Same | Covenant Eyes Buyers’ Guide for Internet Devices (Christmas 2012) | Keep Yourself Out of the Headlines