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Controlling Household Screen Addiction

Tue 8th Sep 2015

There is still debate over which patterns of Internet use are excessive or addictive, however there is no doubt that the increased amount of time kids spend online is concerning to parents.

The global market for parental control solutions is fragmented. This fragmentation is because traditional solutions have required the home users to download software for each device and keep it up to date. In addition, because parental controls have also been part of a security sub-set, the measures have often been feature rich and too complex for the standard user to operate.

With no clear dominant players and the size of the parental control market predicted to double by 2018, there is an opportunity for a telecommunications provider to take a lead in shaping a positive online experience.

One of the problems are that traditional solutions are activated from software that is activated separately on each device in the home. With the number of mobile phones, tablets and laptops in the home these days it’s become too hard. When the family all used the desktop in the corner of the lounge this wasn’t an issue, but now this is seen as too hard to implement and keep up to date. Some of these solutions are seen as too expensive with high monthly fees or upfront costs, payable per annum based on the number of devices in the home and slow down the online experience when users demand speed and performance.

Parents feel out of control with the pace of change and exponential growth on the internet. They feel like they can’t keep up and that their kids are several steps ahead of them.

Credit: Facebook Parental Controls Review. 30 Statistics about teens and social networking.

Internet use has become so normalised and mobile data is ubiquitous. This makes it difficult for parents to know whether they are too strict or too relaxed about the online behavior of their children.

This is often complicated by their own often heavy use of the internet and the pressure from schools for kids and teens to use online resources. Parents are finding that their kids stay glued to their screens even as they begin to experience major problems in functioning, in ways that are not dissimilar from those dealing with substance abuse and gambling disorders. There is still debate over whether someone can be addicted to the Internet itself, or if the Internet serves as a vehicle for engaging in addictive behavior.

Screen time can become an addiction when it begins to impair life functioning deeply. Some individuals game to the point of dropping out of school or isolating themselves from real-world socialising.

The two biggest concerns we’ve found from our focus group research are inappropriate content and amount of time spent online. While both are important to all parents in families with younger children, the focus is inappropriate content. From middle school age, parents’ concern shifts to the amount of time spent online and what impact this has on other aspects of life.

Social networking seems to be disproportionately problematic for women while males have more problems with gaming and pornography. But what is the threshold for problematic patterns of usage? From a developmental perspective, there is more research to understand how specific types and patterns of Internet usage at different ages and how this leads to potential problems.

While the mental health community has started to see an uptick in complaints about screen addiction, we do not have set guidelines to screen for it.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that we have pushed technology into our schools. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but moderation has become a hard balance when technology is a necessary part of children’s upbringing.

As our kids have become more isolated and detached as technology pervades their lives from waking to sleeping or staying up all night gaming, the telecommunications provider can help. Buddy Guard is designed to be a part of an educational campaign to enable parents to find ways to help children and teenagers maintain a healthy digital diet, without the helicopter-parenting effect.

The goal of Buddy Guard parental controls is to achieve moderation, not abstinence. Outcomes are different depending on each family. To establish healthy practices from the beginning, we work with the telecommunications provider to develop parenting guidelines for regulating technology at every age of childhood.

Our approach using our world’s first transparent DNS software is game changing, reducing the total cost of ownership by millions of dollars and allowing the telecommunications provider a choice in the commercial model. This is due to a much lower infrastructure cost which minimises the cost of deployment and significantly reduces the on-going capital requirements to maintain performance as data volumes grow exponentially.

Buddy Guard is also designed to reduce the cost of compliance from regulation. At the same time as user side demand occurs, regulatory pressure on the telecommunication sector increases globally. This is due to national security concerns and media lobbying in Australia and New Zealand, and social behaviour norms in India and Indonesia telco’s. These costs are grossing, increasing the cost of compliance for telecommunications providers, a cost Buddy Guard will significantly reduce especially if your compliance model is proxy or DPI based.

Parents must discuss online activity with their children to better ensure their safety and security offline. Buddy Guard Parental Controls can be enabled by the telecommunications provider to address these issues.


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