When it comes to digital wellness, our privacy and safety and that of our children should be a top priority. These are vast, complicated and sensitive topics, which include our digital footprint, digital data sharing, phishing and mining, online pornography, media violence and online sexual exploitation and abuse.

There are serious concerns that sharing information and involuntary data collection could follow children and teens through adulthood and affect their access to education, employment, health care and financial services1. According to a 2016 report, the Justice Department identified sextortion as “by far the most significantly growing threat to children”2. Due to the growth and widespread use of the internet, access to pornography and the subsequent degradation and abuse of women and other vulnerable groups, such as children and minorities, is spreading3.

Researchers examined over 130 reports based on over 130,000 participants and concluded that violent video game play is positively associated with aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect, as well as negatively associated with empathy for victims of violence and with prosocial behavior4.

Suggestions

  • Because privacy policies are long and complicated, schools and parents should reduce the number of online tools that children and teens are using, and have a clear understanding of the privacy policies of those that are used. Reducing the amount of information shared, disabling location services, and using privacy-conscious search platforms, such as DuckDuckGo, can also protect data.
  • Educate children and adolescents about online sexual exploitation and abuse, and help them create two lists — one of situations that are too big for them to handle on their own and one of trusted adults they can talk to about situations they experience or witness online that make them feel uncomfortable.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends assessing your children's shows and games with an eye toward what they're teaching. Is violence normalized? Funny? Sexy? Racist? Rewarded with money or status? Or are the painful, long-lasting consequences of violence dramatized? A more realistic look at the consequences of violence can provide kids needed perspective.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics also encourages parents to feel empowered to restrict your children from playing games that reward shooting, killing, or harming other people. Video games are powerful teachers — they can help children learn to cooperate and help each other and to multitask in certain ways. However, video games can also reinforce a sense of constant danger and of positive reinforcement for violent acts. The gaming world offers enough compelling content that violence never has to be a part of entertainment.
  • Talk regularly to your kids about biases, racism and hate on social media sites. Be aware of what they’re seeing so you can offer an adult perspective that condemns these types of posts, behaviors, and recruiting practices. Teach your kids to never share a racist post or something they do not fully understand. Teach them to stand up against racism and to tell an adult immediately if they witness racist comments, on or offline.

Resources

  1. Montgomery, K., Chester, J., Milosevic, T., Children’s Privacy in the Big Data Era: Research Opportunities, Pediatrics Nov 2017, 140 (Supplement 2) S117-S121;
  2. US Department of Justice (2016), National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction Report to Congress.
  3. Bernhard Debatin, Jennette P. Lovejoy, Ann-Kathrin Horn, M.A., Brittany N. Hughes, Facebook and Online Privacy: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Unintended Consequences, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 15, Issue 1, 1 October 2009, Pages 83–108,
  4. Anderson, C. A., Shibuya, A., Ihori, N., Swing, E. L., Bushman, B. J., Sakamoto, A., Rothstein, H. R., & Saleem, M. (2010). Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in eastern and western countries: a meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin, 136(2), 151–173.