Help Your Kids Spend Screen Time Wisely

screen time, games, children, parents, media

A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics re-evaluated appropriate screen time limits for young children. The assessment redefined “screen time” as the use of digital media exclusively for entertainment.

In the past, scientists and parents regarded screen time as the collective amount of time a child interacted with their device –and used this as the main factor to assess the potential benefits and/or consequences of screen exposure. However, this new metric focuses on the content and intent of device usage, addressing the positive results from educational-technology research. For example, an experiment in Australia concluded that children who play video games every day tend to perform better academically than those who do not. The theory goes that children who play video games develop critical thinking skills by solving challenges presented in the game. In contrast, students who use social media more frequently performed lower on standardized tests.

Given the debate over the relationship between screen time and child development –especially in the edtech world–this provides a point of clarity for parents as they work with their child to develop healthy device usage habits.

The new guidelines are as follows:

  • 18 months and younger: no screen time
  • 2-5 years old: one hour/day
  • 6-years-old and up: prioritize and complete other activities before screentime. Another study showed that ~4 hours was “just right” for peak performance.

Ultimately, it’s not necessarily how long children spend online, but what they are spending their time on. The following are fun resources for quality, engaging, and educational online content:

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media includes resources for educational purposes or pure entertainment. They regularly compile a “Best of” List for Games, Apps, Websites, Movies, TV, etc. that are easily accessible through a navigation pane. These lists are broken down on a scale of 1-5 and organized by age group (“Preschoolers”, “Little Kids”, “Big Kids”, and “Tweens”). Another helpful feature for parents: they provide reviews for new movies and games, basing their rating on seven key elements (positive messages, positive role models, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking/drugs/smoking).

screen time, games, children, parents, mediascreen time, games, children, parents, media

 

PBS Kids – Reading Games

PBS Kids hosts a variety of game on their website and mobile app. The games are organized by subject/topic or by the TV show it’s based on.

screen time, games, children, parents, media

 

Kids.gov

“The U.S. government’s portal site that provides a gateway to hundreds of Federal and other websites for use by kids and teens.”

Kids.gov provides games and other educational resources for Kids (grades K-5)  and Pre-Teens (grades 6-8). They have a variety of interactive activities centered around learning the science and history of your environment – for example, they have a “Design Your Own Roller Coaster” challenge listed under the Science category. Other resources include Art and Music, Math, Jobs & Careers, Online Safety, etc.

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How to Be a Digitally Aware Parent in 2017

parents, children, screen time, online safety

Kids are trading in swing sets for headsets and see-saws for Slither. There are apps developed specifically for 1-year-olds, and on average, a child receives their first smartphone at the age of 10. It’s 2017 – parents must be cognizant of the virtual playground, just as they looked on while their children scaled the jungle gym.

This constant influx of technology – and at increasingly younger ages – poses a variety of risks for children that range from compromised cybersecurity to impaired cognitive development. However, the best way for parents to ensure online child safety is to be digitally literate and digitally aware themselves. And here’s how:

1. Know the Trends

To understand your child’s device habits, it’s important to know what types of content they are consuming.  For parents who feel that monitoring browser history is too overbearing, this is a less intrusive way to gain insight into what type of material their kids are exposed to. Business Insider surveyed a large group of teens to see what the biggest trends were among young adults this past year.

App Annie regularly reports top download apps and games by category: social networking, kids, entertainment, etc. Google Trends reports top searches and YouTube populates the most viewed videos on their home page.

2. Use Your Resources

The US government has compiled a list of resources centered around cybersafety and cyberbullying prevention. Additionally, there are a variety of tools available that are designed to help parents monitor and protect their children online at all times:

Web filters block inappropriate content, protect from malware, and can detect instances of bullying or self-harm. For full coverage, these apps allow parents to track and regulate their kid’s activity undetected. Google’s My Activity feature compiles watch and search history across all Google Apps, including YouTube. It also tracks devices, where they have been, and what apps you have used; these settings are adjustable. Although controversial, checking your child’s “My Activity” is a free way to follow their digital footprints.

 

3. Engage With Your Child

Younger Children

A recent study focused on how toddlers learn from touchscreens. Researchers observed the difference in a child’s retention and reproduction of a puzzle pattern when the puzzle-assembly tutorial was (1) demonstrated by a “ghost demonstration” on a tablet and (2) performed by an adult sitting next to them. The results: “The 2- and 3-year-olds who saw the ghost demonstration had a hard time replicating the task — but did well after they saw the human hand. Researchers concluded that having a human guide — often referred to as having social scaffolding — helped these young children learn.”

Young Adults

Reassign the hours usually devoted to scrolling through social media apps or online shopping in for a “device-free”, family activity time: start a project with your children, decide upon a book to read together, or introduce a regular time to catch-up and talk about your day. Being attuned to your child’s behavior on-and-off screen is an integral part of keeping them safe. Many young adults fall victim to cyberbullying and serious consequences may ensue. However, many teens do not reach out for help;. Spotting the signs early through shifts in your child’s behavior can prevent the devastating consequences, and ensure they are receiving the proper support they need.

Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:

  • Becomes withdrawn
  • Suddenly stops using the computer
  • Loses interests in hobbies once enjoyed
  • Stops using computer or dims the screen when someone is nearby
  • More can be found here

4. Connect with Other Parents

Many parents have the same concerns when it comes to privacy and internet safety. CommonSense Media, a non-profit that works to promote safe technology usage, has created a trusted forum for parents to voice their concerns. Parents can both “Ask an Expert” and receive guidance from other parents. The forum is segmented by age group.

parents, children, screen time, safety

 

5. Set Guidelines for both Parents and Kids

In 2016, parents spent a daily average of 9 hours and 22 minutes interacting with some sort of screen media. About 8 of these hours were devoted to recreational use. To effectively set screen time boundaries for children, parents must lead by example and consciously make an effort to forgo picking up their device.  Set “no-phone zones”, schedule outdoor activity time, and impose daily screen time limits. Also, make sure that children do not use their device directly before bedtime; studies have shown that this disrupts sleep patterns and can lead to poor academic performance.

It’s especially important to limit screen time during early stages of development. Check out these new guidelines for screen time exposure by age group, abridged from an American Academy of Pediatrics report.

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Web Filtering: equally beneficial for your 5-year-old & 15-year-old

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Web filtering is required by law, as long as schools wish to receive e-rate funding to supply their digital classrooms. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires that schools “block Internet access to pictures that are (a) obscene (b) child pornography or (c) harmful to minors.” CIPA also requires schools to monitor student online activity and provide training for responsible technology use.

The general sentiment: students –especially teens– hate web filtering*. Most students find web filtering to be unnecessarily inhibitive, citing that it blocks perfectly acceptable web pages due to one keyword or denies access to social media pages. One argument goes that filtering prevents exploration and blocks students from using tools like Facebook for academic causes. Another, that it is a breach of student privacy.


*Misdirected blame: Web filtering is different at each school. Federal law doesn’t specifically require schools to block Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your web filtering provider doesn’t dictate that X, Y, or Z website needs to be blocked. Besides fundamental protection against pornography and similar graphic content, it’s at the discretion of each school district to whitelist or blacklist the specific sites that students take issue with. Some schools leave social media open, some schools restrict access, etc. Web filtering, when used correctly, can be utilized to help –not hurt–the student experience.


Web filtering applies to all schools, which means the measure applies to all students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Older students are particularly irked by filtering and feel that although filtering content is necessary to shield younger kids, it is gratuitous for those close to adulthood. Web filtering does vary dramatically from elementary, middle, to high school – however, it offers additional aspects often forgotten that are equally optimal for students of any age.

1. Cyberbullying & Self-Harm Detection

Particular web filters can screen for instances of bullying and self-harm in social media posts. From 2007-2016, the number of students who experienced bullying roughly doubled from 18.8% to 33.8% according to a Cyberbullying Research Center report.  The CDC analyzed cyberbullying by age group and found that 15.5% percent of high school students are cyberbullied, as are 24% of middle school students. Technology is now integrated into daily life at a very young age, leaving even elementary school students at risk for cyberbullying.

37% of cyberbullying cases go unreported; often, students are fearful that 1) the bullying will get worse 2) they’ll be considered a “rat” 3) no one will listen if they seek help. Given bullying’s devastating consequences, detection of bullying and negative sentiment can allow schools/parents to give students the proper care. And even save lives.

2. Productivity and screen time management

In our recent international survey, 53% of students aged 9-18 reported being productive only half of the total time spent working on school assignments. Blocking sites like social media and gaming (especially for younger children) keeps students focused on learning. Some filtering services even allow the admin to establish time restrictions on certain sites (social media, gaming, entertainment, etc.) to create a good balance between recreational and study time.

Also, overexposure to screens may have harmful consequences for cognitive development. Although 5-year-olds may not have research papers to write and assignments to finish, web filtering can help parents and educators manage healthy levels of device usage.

3. Defense against malware and phishing

We asked students their take on web filtering. One student responded, “You don’t get rude ads or viruses.” Pop-ups and pseudo-content are not only annoying but also often dangerous.  Online aggressors specifically target children, enticing them to click on attractive advertisements or links leading to viruses.  

A web filter screens the origin and content of a web page, checking for objectionable content, spyware, and viruses that may compromise your network. It helps keep students safe online and protects from intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware.

4. Helps teachers understand students

On his blog, an IT admin expressed how web filtering helped school staff understand student preferences: ”…you can see stats for student web access. Not blocked pages, which they have a view for too, but sites kids are using. In our case, as we begin having discussions about whether Newsela is a service we want to pursue as a district standard, we now have compelling data telling us that it’s already being widely used and is, in fact, our most accessed website on a weekly basis.”

Teachers can use these insights to create engaging lesson plans and foster a collaborative learning environment, while best-integrating technology into their classroom.

 

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5 Reasons Why Securly is Trusted by Schools in 42/50 States

parent, securly, school, supportGiven the shift towards cloud computing in recent years, schools are moving away from traditional hardware web filtering appliances for the following reasons:

  1. The don’t have school-focused features.
  2. They’re too expensive.
  3. They’re not designed to filter students at home. They require nontrivial setup and maintenance.

Our unique approach to student safety combats all of these issues, and has garnered us a presence in schools in 42 of the 50 States, and in the UK – all of this accomplished in less than four years. In the past year alone, we were 1) chosen as a SC Media 2017 Excellence Award Finalist in the Best Compliance Solution 2) awarded the Tech & Learning’s Award of Excellence for “Best Upgraded Product” and 3) became the first web filtering company to receive the iKeepSafe California Privacy Badge.  

Here’s why schools trust Securly as their answer to CIPA Compliance and online student safety:    

1. Quick, easy set-up and maintenance

Contrary to traditional hardware appliances which require an arduous set-up process, Securly can be independently installed within 5 minutes through a web browser session. The only changes to your network would involve a change in DNS forwarder settings. Securly is infinitely scalable in the cloud and does not have any bandwidth limitations.

Our cloud-based solution eliminates complicated set-up and constant maintenance that often burdens IT admins. It also eliminates extraneous costs of mandatory updates and extra features, cutting expenses dramatically for schools.

Securly continues to work for school-owned devices at home. Chromebook filtering uses a Chrome extension that takes only seconds to deploy. To find out more, check out “How to install the Securly Chrome Extension in 5 Minutes”.
 
 

2. Excellent support

Securly is with school IT every step of the way. We were even awarded the Tech & Learning Stellar Service Award for “Sales Support You Can Believe In.” We have a first response time of 12 minutes and a median ticket solve time of 1.5 hours pre-and-post sale. We give IT admins a white-glove onboarding experience which includes network configuration changes and an end-to-end UI walkthrough and training.

In addition, Securly’s support site is easy to navigate and features a variety of step-by-step guides intended to answer quick questions and smooth the configuration process (for example “How to Install the Securly Chrome Extension in 5 Minutes” featured above).

support, Securly, school, parent

 

3. Bullying and self-harm detection

Our commitment to student safety goes beyond CIPA compliance – Securly is the industry’s first cyberbullying detection solution. Using Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning algorithms, Securly can detect instances of bullying and self-harm on social media, and now Gmail*. This technology does not rely solely on keywords to detect human audits.

Nowadays, students often turn to social media to express emotional distress. At the first sign of negative sentiment, we send high confidence alerts to both parents and school administration so that the student can receive the proper support ASAP. Mark Nelson, the Technology Director of Romeo Community Schools, has seen the power of this feature first-hand: “Securly’s Flagged Activity has helped us contact school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers. The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students is worth 1000x the subscription price.”

*Auditor by Securly is our free tool to monitor Gmail for bullying and self-harm. Keeping this tool free forever is our commitment to K-12 schools.

 

4. Parent engagement

We believe that online student safety is best achieved when IT Admins, School Administration & Guidance Counselors, Parents, and Students work together. Thus, we provide parents with the tools to be engaged in and aware of their child’s online activity.

For parents, we provide automatic weekly email reports of their child’s online activity on school owned devices and more detailed activity information with our parent portal. The portal gives parents a bird’s eye view of their child’s activity on school owned devices. Parents can also customize what their child can do and see at home using the school-owned take home devices. More about parent features can be found here.

We also created a mobile app for parents to help them stay in the loop while on-the-go.
 
 

5. Relief for IT Admins and Teachers

An IT Admin’s job often becomes a bottleneck of support tickets and flagged student activity. To alleviate this inefficiency, Securly has created solutions to reduce the stress on IT Admins that engage teachers, guidance counselors, and parents.

Teacher-Centric Filtering. Admins can allow teachers to temporarily or permanently whitelist individual sites as exceptions to a district policy. “This is precisely how we felt after making the move to Securly,” says Tom Walker, Director of Technology for Massac. “We felt compelled to go with Securly because of its teacher-friendly benefits. For example, if teachers come across a blocked site, they can simply temporarily whitelist the site to grant access for themselves or their students. As an IT administrator who typically receives numerous support tickets, this made my job a whole lot easier, and my teachers a whole lot happier!”

Delegated Administration. Our “set-and-forget” solution allows IT Admins to allow automatic access for Principals, Guidance Counselors, and Parents access to student activity reports.

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