As a millennial straddling the analogue and digital eras, I grew up in an era where my parents had little to no idea what I was doing online, let alone how to work a home computer beyond email and solitaire. Nowadays, parents are (understandably) much more knowledgable and diligent about monitoring their kids’ online activity.
But while many parents are sure that it’s a good idea to keep their kids away from inappropriate content, online predators, and bullying, it can be hard to know when to stop monitoring and start letting your kids take care of themselves.
PCMag’s Tech Parenting survey delved into parents’ feelings surrounding their kids’ use of technology, specifically when parents allow their kids to start using internet-connected devices and when the parental controls are officially taken off.
And it seems like a significant number of parents are playing it safe — and waiting until Junior is off to college before letting go of the reins.
The magazine surveyed 1,079 parents in the U.S. with kids under the age of 18 about their children’s online activity. Just over 15% of parents surveyed said that they believed that 10 is the golden age to give a child their own device, but that doesn’t mean they have free rein; 31% of participants said they plan to use parental control features like blocking certain website and content, recording activities, placing time limits, and, the most popular, viewing browsing history and communication until their child turns 18.
That isn’t to say that all parents are watching all of their teen’s Snapchat interactions. About 17% of participants believe that 16 is the right age to let their teen go online unmonitored. And every kid is different, meaning some 6-year-olds can be trusted not to do anything too nefarious online (like order a boatload of burgers on your phone) while others might need more supervision online.
For the most part, it seems like parents know what their kids are up to online — mostly watching YouTube. About 82% of participants said their kids spend their time online watching videos on the streaming platform, while another 67% said that their kids play video games online.
And even with all of the monitoring, most of it is done with the child’s knowledge, according to those who responded to the survey. Roughly 59% use Norton Family, a monitoring software that encourages a dialogue between kids and parents in addiction to allowing parents to block certain content or check in on their kids’ online activities.
When it comes to deciding on how and when to let a child start using (or have their own) online-connected device, making sure that it is a conversation with the parents and the child in question have together. Every kid’s online activities — and supervision requirements — varies from kid to kid, after all.
One thing is true though: you can protect your children from the world forever. Giving your kids tools to navigate the sometimes dangerous or extreme online world is just as important as keeping them away from it when they’re too little to understand.