From 2019 to 202, adolescent’s screen time more than doubled, and in 2021, parents ranked increased screen time as one of the most harmful effects of the pandemic. It has been reported that the majority of teenagers feel addicted to their phones, while a startling 72% feel the urge to immediately check notifications or respond to messages. With this increased screen time comes a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of these young users. Studies show that nearly half of teenagers today will experience some form of mental health problem in their lifetime, and those who use social media for more than 3 hours daily are at a higher risk.
This increased use of social media and online platforms acts as a gateway into detrimental experiences for young people, such as cyberbullying and accidental exposure to pornography or other inappropriate content. On average, children are first exposed to pornography at age 11, and 49% of teens ages 13-17 unintentionally encounter pornography at least 1-2 times per month. It has even been reported that 1 in 7 children between the ages of 9 and 12 have shared nude photos of themselves online.
Accidental exposure to inappropriate content is not uncommon, and can occur during innocent internet usage, video gaming, or general video consumption on streaming platforms. Fortunately, there are several methods for protecting children from harmful content including but not limited to setting ground rules, reinforcing good habits, parental control usage, and starting an open and comfortable conversation about the topic. Studies even show that 65% of young teens want their families to use parental control software. The internet can be a dangerous place, and as social media and online usage increases, so does the need for protecting young users from harmful experiences.