There used to be a time when streaming TV from our phones was not an option. If someone in the household wanted to spend some time binging a show, well, they couldn’t. That’s because Generation Z, or anyone born after the mid-to-late 90s, is the only generation that has been able to enjoy the fruition of technology and all the perks that come with it.
These days, children under the age of five know how to use an iPad or a smartphone much better than their adult counterparts. Small children understand the concept of what it means “to go online” and look for something. Whenever they want to watch their favorite cartoon, they simply log in to their favorite streaming service and spend as much of their allotted screen time on PBS Kids.
However, even though technology has freed parents from having to entertain their children all day, there are still some concerns about figuring out the best ways to keep kids safe from inappropriate content online. Without parental supervision, young children can sometimes be exposed to explicit content while sitting in the living room waiting for dinner.
While the age of technology has been a great advance for future generations, it has also opened the door to a lot of issues that parents need to consider when allowing their kids to stream TV online.
There are a lot of things that parents can do to help keep their children safe while they’re enjoying their favorite shows. Establishing good communication and explaining why certain shows are off-limits can help kids stay safe and the parents relaxed.
How Often Are Kids Streaming?
The term “streaming” can mean a couple of different things. It can mean that kids are spending time watching TV online through their phones or tablets. It can also mean that kids are engaging in live streaming—a way for them to create their content and share it live with audiences.
Data from 2018 suggests that children under the age of 12 spend an average of 10.7 hours online streaming TV per week. While the number doesn’t seem like much, that’s still a fair amount of time for kids to be spending in front of a device. Throw in a pandemic and they’re spending nearly all their time streaming something—a class, a Zoom chat for school, or the latest Disney movie on Apple TV.
Perks of Kids’ Presence Online
It’s not all bad. There are positives to kids spending time online and seeing different kinds of content.
- Streaming TV shows on devices allows kids to be able to watch anything on the go, which makes it easier for parents to entertain them in a pinch. Whether it’s a long car ride or maybe a TV show that focuses on education, streaming TV on devices can be fun and educational.
- Livestreaming original content or watching other kids do the same through social media channels, like YouTube, can encourage children to be creative and help them develop their voice and interests in a much more detailed way. It can also make learning fun and it is a good way for kids to interact with other children their age while learning together.
- Being online, whether it is to stream movies or live stream original content, exposes kids to immediate feedback and motivates them to form their own opinions.
Negatives of Kids’ Presence Online
Of course, there’s another side to the perks. The truth is that while there are a lot of good things that have come out of kids being able to go online and watch movies, instructional videos, and interact with kids their age (especially during a pandemic), there are many things that concern parents.
- Online bullying is a real thing and something that happens more often than it should. Even if kids are not necessarily engaged in live streaming and are merely spectators, they can still (unfortunately) be targeted.
- Safety is also a concern for parents because children tend to be logged in to streaming services with their parents’ information. If for some reason, that information gets in the wrong hands due to a lack of parental controls, it could potentially expose personal information that is prey for hackers and malware.
- Inappropriate content is something that children will inevitably be exposed to when watching TV through a device. Of course, it can be prevented by setting up the right controls and settings. Just keep in mind that there’s always a chance that kids will still be exposed to content that is not suitable for their age.
How to Make Streaming Safer for Kids?
- Watch TV – The number one thing, and perhaps the best thing, a parent can do to keep their children safe when engaging online is being involved in what they’re watching. Parents want the best for their children and a good way to gauge what’s best is to sit and watch the shows or movies that they’re interested in.
It’s important to keep an open line of communication and explain to kids why it’s not safe for them to watch certain content. Kids always want to know the “why” behind everything. It’s better to explain the reasons why a certain show or vlog might not be appropriate and encourage kids to ask questions.
- Parental Controls – The number of settings that parents can change through their service providers is flexible depending on what parents feel is safe for their child to watch. The best thing about parental controls is that the settings can be applied across multiple platforms so that the content is controlled in social media websites, as well as on streaming apps.
- Reporting Functions – Let’s face it, kids are on their devices a lot of their time. Even with parents’ involvement in what they watch and implementing parental controls, kids will still be exposed to things that might not be appropriate. Children need to know and understand how and when to report something that they consider inappropriate content. Encourage kids to seek support whenever they feel they might be facing an issue that they don’t know how to handle. Always emphasize speaking up and not staying quiet about anything that might make them feel unsafe.
The internet is there to be a helpful tool. And while it also features many entertaining aspects, when it comes to children, it’s paramount to keep an eye out for all the inappropriate things that are online. This new generation is growing up with devices and online content from a very early age. It’s okay to talk as a family about the dangers of it and the ways they can maintain a safe space to enjoy. Communication is key.