Studies in the past several years have shown that kids who spend more time on social media networks are less happy in all areas of their lives. While adults are also vulnerable to the negative impact that social media and certain online overuse can have, children are often at higher risk. If they don't have the support of a parent or mentor, many will use these sites blindly, share or post inappropriate photos and messages, and depend too much on the "likes" and "comments" from their peers—leading to an enormous amount of time spent on these sites and making kids more prone to low self esteem.
While the internet has brought improved and enhanced education, health and entertainment, ISPs want to help parents learn how to manage their children’s online use and teach their kids how to safely navigate the internet. ISPs across the cable industry offer tools and resources for parents to control internet usage through time limits and search restrictions, as well as guidance on how to teach kids to use certain sites in moderation.
Comcast's Internet Essentials provides online tutorials on avoiding digital harassment among teens, and video guides that explain how social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat work, what to watch out for, how to set privacy settings high, and how to teach kids to read comments and "likes" with a critical eye. Comcast even offers its customers resources from a "Mediatrician," an expert in the effects of media on the physical, mental and social health of children. The Mediatrician, Michael Rich, is the founder of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital in Boston, and offers answers to questions such as "What's an appropriate amount of social media time per day for young people" and "I tried to cancel my daughter's social media account, but she created another one--what do I do?"
And last fall, Comcast premiered xFi, a network managing system that enables parents to see what devices are online, how long they've been online, block Wi-Fi at bedtime, or "pause" devices during certain times of day--ultimately giving parents the power to show kids that social media use and internet time have their limits, and it doesn’t come before family dinners or other in-person bonding experiences. xFi's parental controls also give parents the ability to protect their kids from inappropriate content online through setting safe-search restrictions for Google, Bing and YouTube.
Disney provides a similar controls feature called Circle, a small piece of hardware that plugs directly into a home Wi-Fi router. The feature contains filters that allow parents to personalize controls for each child through unique profiles, allowing for age-appropriate sorting for multiple children. Kids gets their own dashboard pages that allow them to see how much time they spent online, where they spent their time, and how much time they still have left before it shuts down for bedtime. Parents also receive reports about which platforms and websites their kids are visiting, and how long they spend on them, similar to the parental controls features in other ISP offerings across the industry.
On top of providing parental control features for customers that allow parents to monitor usage and restrict access to certain websites designed for kids, Cox features tips, videos and infographics from Common Sense Media that help parents identify social media and online trends among kids. The video guides serve to empower parents in talking to their kids about these often uncomfortable topics, to teaching them how to manage their online identities, and navigating proper photo and message sharing online.
Mediacom's Total Defense Internet Security offers a "Social Network Defender" that sends alerts when it detects possible harmful links or content on social network sites. The ISP's parental controls helps to protect kids from online predators and potential offensive content through its filtering and blocking mechanisms, preventing kids from sharing or "liking" dangerous posts.
Controlwithcable.org, a collaborative industry-wide effort, is a hub for families to find out what the cable industry is doing to keep kids informed and healthy online through measures that enforce limits to online use and the type of media and sites that kids interact with. The #ICYMI video collection is featured on the site as well and talks about how to engage kids in conversations around media use.
For more info, visit controlwithcable.org.