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Technology is a double-edged sword for children, parents agree

No one has ever claimed that parenting was a cakewalk, but the digital age may have made things even more difficult for responsible mothers and fathers. While the benefits of technology abound, shielding children from the ways of the world is becoming exponentially more difficult as we become ever more connected. And to determine just how parents of the 21st century feel about raising kids in the throes of the mobile generation, Qualtrics conducted a survey of 1,039 parents with children between the ages of 8 and 17, and found that just about everyone is aware of the double-edged sword that technology presents.

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“This generation’s parent-child relationship is much different than those of the past,” Mike Maughan, head of global insights at Qualtrics told me. “There are so many things bombarding children — whether innocuous or harmful. When it comes to children and technology, there is so much good — but also so much risk.”

While it is almost universally accepted (96 percent) that smartphones can be critical in emergency situations, some parents are also worried about the dangers posed by the Internet and its devices. 10 percent of parents say that their children have probably or definitely been bullied online, and 43 percent believe their children have accessed inappropriate content online. “A few years ago bullying was contained to individuals,” Maughan notes. “Now hostile images, videos, texts, etc. can be broadcast widely via the Internet.”

More concerning still, 42 percent of parents think their child or children have engaged with strangers through the web, but over a quarter of them say they do not monitor their children’s smartphone activity.

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Most worrisome to modern day parents, however, are online relationships, with 38 percent of them noting that their kids are probably sexting. 30 percent of parents also believe that it’s “likely” their children are using dating apps. And considering the recently publicized link between Tinder and STDs, it’s no wonder moms and dads everywhere are a bit concerned. “In the past,” says Maughan, “parents worried about whether their children were getting into trouble by sneaking out at night, getting bad grades or physically endangering themselves. Today, a child could be engaging in far worse things from their phone without ever having to leave their bedroom.”

Still, in spite of the natural fears that accompany this gratuitous smartphone usage, parents seem optimistic about the usefulness of this technology as well. 75 percent of them believe technology has had a positive impact on their children’s education, and surprisingly enough, they’re also four times more likely to say that social media has been a net positive in terms of their children’s self-esteem. This, of course, stands in stark contrast to other studies that suggest that FOMO (fear of missing out) is magnified by too much time on sites like Facebook or Twitter, and that this may be linked to depression.

Ultimately, Maughan says, parents will need to learn “what they need to pay attention to and how best to monitor” their children’s habits and behavior when it comes to technology. Technology, he says, can be used for “great good or great evil,” which Maughan notes “is true of many innovations over time.”

So get used to it, kids and parents alike. Technology is here, and it’s here to stay.