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By 11 November 2021 | Categories: news

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The results of a new Kaspersky study reveal that 66% of parents from South Africa surveyed find it hard to be role models for their children and occasionally don’t follow the rules they set for their little ones. At the same time, more than half of parents (64%) try to establish healthy digital habits and rules for all family members.

From an early age, children tend to copy the behaviour and habits of adults in all areas of life, including attitudes towards digital devices. Additionally, many children are handed their first device at a young age – according to the same study, 70% of children in South Africa receive devices before the age of nine. With that in mind, parents need to be role models in tech usage if they want to lay the foundations for healthy digital habits from childhood.

The survey results also show that parents perceive norms of behaviour to be different for themselves and their children. For instance, almost half (45%) of respondents from South Africa admitted that they spend three to five hours on devices every day, and over half (58%) consider this time to be normal.

Yet when it comes to children, almost half (49%) spend the same amount of time on devices as their parents – three to five hours a day. But, despite this, more than half of adults (60%) would like their children to spend less time on devices – up to two hours.

In some scenarios, respondents consider certain behaviours to be acceptable for themselves but not for their children. For example, 46% of adults believe it’s normal to share photos of family members on social networks. On the contrary, less than a quarter (25%) of parents think this is acceptable for their children.

Furthermore, 28% of respondents also consider it reasonable to skip calls and turn off their phone so that no one can contact them. However, only 9% of parents think such behaviour is acceptable for children.

“Today, more and more parents are trying to establish healthy digital habits alongside those for nutrition and daily regimes, etc. But there is no clear trend or strong behaviour pattern regarding how to specifically establish those rules for digital practices. At the same time, our survey results show that most of the adults from South Africa surveyed (66%) admit finding it hard to be a role model and that they occasionally don’t follow the rules they set for their children. To help parents to establish healthy digital practices, there are a variety of techniques and tools available to support them. These can be included through roleplay and games, or for a more technical approach, solutions such as apps are available that can help control screen time or determine a child’s physical location,” comments Marina Titova, Vice-President, Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky.

“Digital consumption shapes the relationship between parents and children and, more importantly, it impacts a child’s development. Research shows that infants develop feeding and sleep problems, for example, when parents use digital media in parallel while caring for them. This is a serious indication of an incipient attachment disorder. Children learn by imitating. That’s why you should always consider what children see in concrete terms. Do their parents always have their smartphone in their hands or even at the table when they’re eating? Let us not forget that parents are always setting an example for their children,” comment Birgitt Hölzel and Stefan Ruzas from the Munich practice Liebling + Schatz.

Birgitt Hölzel and Stefan Ruzas believe that from a family therapy perspective, media literacy in families is a very important topic. It is also important for children to be able to develop well. “However, we must address that the smartphone has only been around in this form for the past decade and has become vital in our everyday lives. That’s why it’s often not so easy to use it consciously and, above all, to introduce children to it. Our dependence on our phones is why it’s all the more important to make this topic clear to all of us in the first place. In addition, there are also tried-and-tested rules of conduct for the consumption of digital media in families that are very helpful. The most important thing for all parents is to keep talking to their children about media use.”

The full report is available via this link.

To help children spend their time on the Internet securely, you can:

  • Surf and learn together. See where children spend their time online and explore how to best keep them safe.
  • Consider downloading parental control apps and discuss this topic with your child to explain how such apps work and why they need them to stay safe online.
  • Involve yourself in children’s online activities from an early age, so this is the established norm, and so you can ‘mentor’ them.

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