According to research provided by the International Telecommunication Union, it is estimated that as of December 2019, there are 4.1 billion people using the internet, which accounts for 53.6% of the global population. Of them, more than 3 billion come from developing countries, demonstrating the sheer reach of the internet in the modern world. What was once seen as a fad roughly 25 years ago has since become a fundamental part of our daily lives, impacting how we work, learn, and have fun. For our children in particular, the internet and social media have become a nearly indispensable part of their daily lives, for good and for ill. In order to ensure that our children are using the internet safely and
As of this year, the average internet user is expected to spend 6 hours and 43 minutes per day online, adding up to more than 100 full days in a year. Additionally, the average American spends 2 hours and 3 minutes a day on social media, which is still slightly less than the global average of 2 hours 24 minutes. Over the past decade, social networking went from being just one of many activities that people enjoyed online to one of the most popular activities. The most common reasons people use the internet is to connect with family and friends, express opinions, looking up information, and shop online, and social media has grown to the point where it can encompass all of these things.
The internet has also firmly embedded itself within our entertainment habits, as new research shows that two-thirds of the world’s internet users aged 16 to 64 now watching TV content streamed over the internet. The internet has also become virtually inseparable from most other popular forms of entertainment, from music streaming services like Spotify to online video games. The internet has also created entirely new forms of entertainment, including live streams where people play popular games or host community events.
A recent survey indicates that over half (53.9%) of US web traffic comes from mobile devices, which is a 33% increase from last year. Although standalone desktop computers and laptops are still commonly used, mobile has become the preferred method for getting online, whether for connecting with friends and family on social media or making purchases via eCommerce websites. Indeed, it is the more ready access to computers and smartphones that have so heavily driven internet usage across the globe, allowing less developed nations to reach out and communicate with others. This trend is only likely to increase over time, as internet penetration is often strongly tied to the state of communication networks, and with 5G wireless technology becoming more prevalent, more and more people will have access to faster and more readily available internet connections.
Due to their more tech-savvy nature that comes with growing up as “digital natives,” younger people generally have greater access to the internet. Roughly 88% of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 years in the United States have access to a desktop or laptop computer, with approximately 97% and 93% of girls and boys respectively having access to a smartphone. As such, teenagers are arguably the age-group that performs the most activities online.
Their reasons for using the internet can vary greatly, but they tend to match up with the major reasons that most people go online: staying informed, entertained, and connected with their friends and family. That sense of connection is especially important, as teenagers have often reported that they feel less lonely and more popular when using social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. However, this feeling of connectedness can also backfire, as similar research shows that teenagers who are already dealing with low social-emotional well-being often feel left out or excluded when using social media.
Unfortunately, amplifying feelings of loneliness is far from the biggest problem than children and teens deal with online. Cyberbullying is a near-constant issue, as the anonymity and general lack of consequences can embolden people to act out a negative fashion. According to an April 2019 survey, 17.4% of U.S. middle and high school students had been bullied online in the past 30 days, ranging from sending hurtful comments to spreading rumors. States are steadily working to try and mitigate the effects on cyberbullying, with 48 states having electronic harassment laws that specifically mention it.
Perhaps even worse than cyberbullying are the ways that the internet can be a haven for individuals who would seek to abuse and exploit children. In a recent report delivered to the UN’s Human Rights Council, experts argued that there is not a single country that is free of child abuse and exploitation, and that the growth of the internet has offered its perpetrators a degree of “secrecy, anonymity and opacity” that would have been unheard of a decade prior. Additionally, it was said that in 2017, there were 78,589 online sites containing child sexual abuse material, with that number increasing by 32% within a year. To make matters worse, the true scale of such crimes is difficult to trace, due to both the stigma of surrounding it and the growing complexity of the modern internet.
Given the sheer number of potential threats to children’s online safety, it is important to do our part to protect the young people in our lives. There is a wide range of hardware and software solutions out there that can help keep safer online, from adjusting settings on their internet browsers to installing online filtering software that can block out inappropriate content. Regardless of what methods you choose however, the most important thing that you can do to keep your kids safe online is to keep a watchful eye and talk to them about the importance of web safety.
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