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The Screen Time Limits Recommended by Pediatricians

You’ve laid down the ground rules with your kids, but how do you know just how much screen time is too much, and more importantly, how do you go about enforcing these limits?

According to CNN, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised their media guidelines and recommends the following screen time limits and best practices:

  • Kids should be limited to two hours per day of combined laptop and smartphone use. This two hour limit excludes online homework and any schoolwork. Parents should ensure that during this two hour timeframe, kids engage with only high-quality content.
  • Children under two should not have any screen media exposure (the rationale being that young children learn best by interacting with people as opposed to screens).
  • Families should set a media curfew, or a time in the evening when parents tell their kids to turn their phones, tablets, TVs, and computers off.

AAP found that kids spend an average of seven hours per day on entertainment media, which includes TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices.

Even more shocking are the findings of a Common Sense Media report: 38% of children under two have used a mobile device or tablet for media; and the average time per day that children under two spend with screen media is an hour.

Too much screen time is becoming a public health issue

While these guidelines may seem unrealistic or excessively strict, keep in mind that children’s behavioral, emotional, and physical health is at stake with rising media usage.

According to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, when kids engage in too much screen time, they can become overweight, develop attention disorders, and have problems at school.

Studies have also linked excessive screen time to eye strain, aggressive behavior, sleep disorders, and even mental health diagnoses in kids.

Enforcing screen time limits and other tips

  • Monitor the media that your kids use.
  • Encourage outdoor and physical activity when your kids are outside of school.
  • Engage in screen time and media activities, such as playing a video game or watching a TV show, with your child. This way you know how much screen time they’re actually getting, and by engaging in these kinds of activities together, you encourage bonding and social interaction. You can also use this together time to promote learning by teaching your kids about advertising through commercials on TV, or the importance of not oversharing via online content.
  • Value face-to-face communication. While an educational learn-the-alphabet app or game may seem like a good way to improve language skills, AAP reports that young children learn best through two-way communication. This means that actual back-and-forth conversations are necessary to improve language skills, rather than passive listening or one-way interaction on an electronic device.
  • Know that not all media content is equal. AAP encourages the use of high-quality content, such as e-books and FaceTime or Skype video chats with relatives or a traveling parent. (As noted above, two-way conversations, no matter if they’re in person or online, boost children’s language skills and capacity for social interaction.)

With our increasingly digital world, it’s more important than ever to raise media literate children. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the AAP website. AAP has a wealth of information about children and media safety, including how to talk to your kids about social media, screen time, and sexting.

If you have a suggestion or advice regarding establishing screen time limits, please feel free to leave a comment below.

You can also visit our Facebook page to be part of our growing community of parents who want to learn more about raising kids to be healthy, happy, and well-rounded, while still embracing social media and the online world.

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Do you know if your child’s on Facebook or Instagram?

Although the minimum age is 13, there are many younger children who are hidden users on Facebook and other social media networks.

According to a recent US study reported about in the Atlantic, one-quarter of children aged 12 and under used Facebook and lied about their age to join the site.

34% of Facebook users in the study were 8-to-10-year-olds.

Even more shocking, Consumer Reports found that, of the twenty million minors on Facebook, 7.5 million of them are under age 13.

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform with hidden, underage users. Photo-sharing sites and apps, such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat, which all have a minimum age of 13, are especially popular among the elementary school set.

Although there is no hard data on how many underage kids use the app, the Atlantic reports that Instagram is the most-used photography site for 12-to-17-year-olds.

Is underage social media use harmful to children?

According to the psychologists and educators in the US study, “Engaging in these online social interactions prior to necessary cognitive and emotional development that occurs throughout middle childhood could lead to negative encounters or poor decision-making.

As a result, teachers and parents need to be aware of what children are doing online and to teach media literacy and safe online habits at younger ages than perhaps previously thought.”

This means that kids younger than 13 are joining social media networks that are meant for teenagers and adults before they’re developmentally and cognitively ready.

According to cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken, children ages 4 to 12 are the most vulnerable population online. But this age group is not only vulnerable to online predators, cyber bullies, and adult content.

Aiken argues that kids under 13 haven’t gone through the stages of identity formation yet, and therefore have trouble distinguishing their cyber-selves from reality.

What are other consequences of underage social media use?

The Atlantic reports that, in general, the younger the user, the more friends they have on a social media network. On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing.

However, studies have shown that these young users are more prone to cyber bullying because although they may have more friends on Facebook, often the friends they have in their large online network are not true friends.

Their “friends” on social networks may be classmates or casual acquaintances, rather than close friends. This may explain why a Consumer Reports study found that during the past year alone 1 million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyber bullying on Facebook.

How can you teach your child about social media in a protected environment?

There is a safer alternative to Facebook and Instagram. It’s the eebudee app. Designed for kids 13 and under, eebudee is a secure app that allows kids, their parents, close friends, and extended family members to learn about social media in a safe, private environment. (Only you, the parent, or another responsible adult determines who can join in.)

With eebudee, kids learn to communicate, interact, and behave online, without the real-world dangers and consequences. The eebudee chat app is available on Android and iPhone.

You can also sign up for eebudee on our website to learn more about safe social media.

The eebudee online platform and app are in beta phase and will be officially launched mid-year 2017. If you have any feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.

 

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A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Musical.ly

Is your child obsessed with karaoke, or singing and dancing along to music videos? If so, you may have heard of Musical.ly, a music video sharing app and social media platform that is especially popular among tweens and teens.

Musical.ly is growing quickly—Business Insider reports that 70 million people had registered on the app as of May 2016, and over 10 million people use it every day.

What exactly is Musical.ly?

Just as Instagram lets users create better photographs, Musical.ly lets people create funny, entertaining videos. With Musical.ly, users can shoot and edit their own videos in various modes and with multiple effects, such as slow motion or fast. Musical.ly users (referred to as “musers”) can learn about new music and emulate popular music videos by lip syncing to songs on the app.

But there is much more to the app—musers can post and share their own music or comedic videos, as well as view other musers’ videos, compete in video challenges, do live streamings, and create Musical.ly stories, which are a combination of multiple video clips.

What’s the minimum age?

Although Musical.ly states on their website that the minimum age is 13, the app doesn’t ask for your age when you sign up. You can simply create a username and password, and log in. The iTunes website designates the app as suitable for ages 12 and older, given the potential for mild sexual content, profanity, crude humor, and alcohol, tobacco, or drug use references.

How can I keep my child safe on Musical.ly?

  1. Set their account to private
  • All Musical.ly accounts are public by default.
  • To make your child’s account private, go to the profile page and click the settings icon.
  • Under settings, move the toggle button to ‘private account.’
  • Keep in mind that even with a private account your child’s profile will remain public, but only approved musers (i.e. your child’s friends and family) will be able to see any videos your child creates.
  1. Hide your child’s location 
  • In settings, you can also hide your child’s location information (recommended) and set the account so that only friends can contact your child (also recommended).
  1. Make sure their videos are set to private
  • When musers create a video, they have the option of saving it privately, or posting the video publicly.
  • They can also share their videos with friends via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, Whatsapp, and/or email.
  • Be sure your kids only post privately and only share their videos with their close friends and family.

What should I watch out for?

  • Just as with Twitter and Instagram, much of the appeal of Musical.ly is gaining ever more followers. However, in order to attract followers, your child’s profile can’t be private. And with a public profile, other musers can comment on the videos posted.
  • While the app encourages positive comments, a muser can still leave any comment they want (including negative ones), and there is the potential for cyber bullying. For these reasons, it’s best to keep your child’s account private. (Remember, adults are on Musical.ly, too.)
  • Even if you follow the tips above and make your child’s account private, they can still search for videos created by other musers. In searching, your child could unwittingly stumble across videos that contain adult content and inappropriate language. For example, musers can search for categories by hashtag, and even a quick search in the app for the #dance hashtag revealed content inappropriate for kids and tweens.
  • The bottom line is that the search option has no restrictions or parental controls available—this means that your child can search for and access any and all public videos (inappropriate or not) posted by other musers.
  • For this reason, if your child is under 13 and wants to use Musical.ly, it’s best for you to use the app together with your child (for example, on your tablet or phone), so you can monitor their activity.

Final tips

While Musical.ly can be a great way for young people to flex their creative muscles and express themselves through singing and dancing, the app also has its risks, and is most suitable for teens.

As with other forms of social media, if your child is going to use Musical.ly, it’s important that they remember the Grandma Rule: if they wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing a video that they created with their grandma, then they shouldn’t post it to the app.

For more insights into how children and young people use social media, please visit and Like our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page.

 

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When Should You Buy Your Child Their First Smartphone?

According to the New York Times, parents are struggling to determine the right age to buy their children their first smartphones. Under the current trend, children are getting their first smartphones at younger ages. In fact, the research firm Influence Central reports that the average age for a child to get their first smartphone is 10 years old, a considerable drop from age 12 in 2012.

What do the experts recommend?

Although the experts haven’t come to a consensus on the exact age, they do agree that the longer you wait to purchase a smartphone for your child, the better. According to the New York Times, some internet safety experts “said 12 was the ideal age, while others said 14.”

Most experts agree on the early teenage years because smartphones can not only become addictive, but they can also offer too many distractions during and outside of school, and can expose kids to cyber bullying, online predators, pornography, and sexting. Plus, at night, smartphone use can interfere with kids’ sleep cycles and during the day, extended smartphone use can limit children’s physical activity. (What’s more, smartphones are expensive—even the cheapest models cost at least $300.)

Finally, the experts note that even without a smartphone, children still have access to social media, educational games, and internet sites through other technological devices, such as computers and tablets.

What’s a parent to do?

First, there is no right age for buying your child a smartphone. Only you as a parent can determine whether or not your child is mature and responsible enough to handle the risks and benefits that come with owning a smartphone.

If you’re looking for alternatives, you can consider buying a younger child, such as a six to ten-year-old, a simple, affordable, trainer phone before you purchase a smartphone for them. One such example is the KISA phone, which doesn’t have internet, texting, or a camera, but which lets parents control who their children can and cannot call, and offers GPS tracking.

Another intermediary option is a wearable smartwatch, such as the FiLIP, which functions as a phone and locator for kids. A smartwatch is a lot cheaper and much harder for a child to lose than a large, clunky smartphone.

A trainer phone or smartwatch can act as training wheels before you purchase a smartphone for your child.

What else should I consider?

It’s hard as a parent to monitor your child’s activity on a smartphone because you’re not always around when they’re using their phone. Knowing for what purpose your child will mainly be using their smartphone, be it texting, social media, phone calls, educational activities, or games, can also help you decide when they are ready to own their first one.

So when your child asks (or begs!) for their first smartphone, talk with them about why they want one. Just because all of their friends have one doesn’t necessarily mean your child is ready to get their own smartphone.

Also, keep in mind that many social media platforms that your children will likely be accessing from their smartphones have age limits. For example, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Twitter’s minimum age is 13, and YouTube’s is 18 (although kids aged 13-17 can sign up if they have parental permission). These social media platforms’ age restrictions can help guide you in deciding when to buy your child a smartphone.

When do you think children should get their first smartphone? Comment below and join the conversation.

Interested in learning more about safe technology use and social media?

Join our Safe Social Media community on Facebook to learn about safe social media and online gaming for children. You can also check out the eebudee app, which helps kids, parents, extended family, and family friends learn how to use social media in a safe, secure, and private environment.

 

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Tinder, MeowChat and the Risks for Children

Most social media networks do not allow children below a certain age to sign up.

Age restrictions exist for a reason, and in most cases, they are designed to protect a child from information or material that may be harmful to them.

Unfortunately, age conditions cannot easily be enforced by Facebook and other social media networks, as they have no way of knowing if a new user is above or below the cut off age.

This creates a distinct challenge for parents.

What can parents do?

Luckily, there are actions you can take to ensure your child is not using a social media network that is inappropriate for them. If your child has a mobile phone, check the home screen to see whether they have uploaded any new social media apps.

For example, if your child has a Facebook icon on the home screen of their phone (this looks like a big blue and white ‘F’), you know they have downloaded Facebook and are probably using it. If your child is under 13 years old, then they are using Facebook prematurely.

We’ve taken a moment to highlight 2 high-risk social media applications you need to be aware of.

Tinder

How it works: Tinder is one of the most popular dating applications in the world. It’s used by adults to connect with other single adults in their area. Each user has a profile, which includes photos of that person, plus a brief description, if they choose to include one. If a person sees another person they like, they swipe left. If two people swipe left, they are considered a ‘match’. They then have the opportunity to message one another privately.

The problem: A recent survey found there are more school-age children on Tinder than single adults over the age of 35. There’s also a version of Tinder specifically designed for children aged 13 to 17 years old. Child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, was reported as saying that Tinder was a “…recipe for psychological disaster…”, especially because young brains have not fully developed yet.

What you can do: Tinder is used on an iPhone or Android phone, so check to see whether your child had downloaded the application. This will appear on their phone’s home screen and will look like a big red and white ‘T’. You may need to swipe across your child’s home screen, as when someone has multiple applications, they may be located across multiple pages.

If you’re not sure what an ‘application’ is, head to our Social Media Definitions page.

Tinder icon

MeowChat

How it works: MeowChat has been picking up steam lately. This relatively new social media network lets you chat randomly with strangers located near you. As such, it combines the core features of Tinder, with chat applications like WhatsApp. Users must be aged 13+.

The problem: MeowChat’s cute cat logo may look sugary sweet, but the app itself is risky for young people. Although the app does tell users never to send or request inappropriate images, this is still more than likely to occur. In fact, many profiles include requests like ‘no nudes please’, which indicates that receiving nude images is a reality for those using the app. Yes, the app can also be set to ‘private’, but its specifically designed to promote sharing, so users are less likely to embrace this feature.

What you can do: Once again, we recommend checking the home page of your child’s screen to see whether the MeowChat logo exists. If it does, you know your child is using it. Under 13’s are not allowed to use the app, and we strongly argue that, due to the prevalence of nude photos and creeps trying to contact users, it is unsuitable for anyone under 18. Explain the risks to your child and remove the app from their phone. Then check the phone regularly to ensure it has not been downloaded again.

Head here for more on the risks of MeowChat.

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Your social media community

For more insights into keeping your child safe on social media, feel free to join our Safe Social Media community on Facebook. We regularly share tips and advice from other parents and experts in the social media space.

Head here to Follow Safe Social Media for Kids.

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Business News features eebudee

eebudee was featured as App/Tech Business of the Week in Business News magazine recently. This regular piece focuses on companies or technologies with a strong link to Western Australia.

We were also happy to see that eebudee is ranked #1 on the BNiQ Startups list.

Check out the excerpt below!

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For more info about how we champion safe social media for kids and families, please email help@eebudee.com.au. You can also explore our website to discover more!