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Parents: 70% of kids spending more time in front of a screen than before coronavirus pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed students to live more of their social lives online, advocates for internet safety are urging parents to set clear guidelines with their kids for using technology.

Carrie Neill, connected ambassador for the national PTA, said the group’s new “Smart Talk” tool helps parents start a conversation with children about when and how they use their devices.

“The Smart Talk tool brings that power to families to collaboratively discuss, ‘What are we comfortable with? What are the parameters?'” Neill explained. “And gives parents some language to work off of, and it gives kids a voice in the conversation.”

A poll by the Pew Research Center found more than 70% of parents surveyed report their kids are spending more time in front of a screen than they were pre-pandemic. Nearly 40% of respondents said they had loosened their rules on screen time and digital device usage.

Kyle Belokopitsky, executive director of the New York state PTA, said parents should start internet safety conversations early, when kids are in preschool or kindergarten. She noted parents do not necessarily need to understand everything about the technology their kids use, and talking openly with them can be an important learning opportunity for both.

“It’s really important to have, you know, critical communications with our children about internet safety, about the do’s and don’ts of online behavior,” Belokopitsky asserted.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Dana Platin, president of the New York state PTA, said she believes the nature and content of those talks will likely evolve in the coming years, as people who grew up on the internet and social media begin having children. She pointed out in the Pew survey, one-third of parents reported their kids began engaging with smart devices by age two.

“They’re a lot more savvy with technology,” Platin remarked. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with internet use.”

The national PTA has more digital well-being resources available online, through its PTA Connected initiative.