GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new national poll from the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital shows parents’ biggest health concerns for their children involve technology and its impact on mental health.
The poll results released Monday listed parents’ top 10 concerns. The top three were related to technology. No. 4 was depression and suicide.
West-Michigan-based Protect Young Eyes provides parents tools and guidance to address safety with their kids. The growing digital landscape can be overwhelming to keep up with, especially after children spent more time in front of a screen during the pandemic, founder and CEO Chris McKenna said.
“I think what that proved to us is that connection doesn’t equal health. Connection doesn’t equal relationships. Digital connection doesn’t equal the type of connection that is fulfilling and life giving and so now parents are stepping back and going, ‘Wait a minute,’” McKenna said.
He encouraged parents to take action to address those concerns.
“Let’s make decisions that are consistent with our concerns. It is possible to give our children access to devices that are talk, text, GPS that doesn’t also give them some of the baggage of some of the digital spaces that can be harmful to some kids,” he said.
McKenna said parents need to approach the topic with compassion and work together with their kids to address it.
“That’s not all their fault. We’ve created these technologies. We’ve given them the technologies and the 14-year-old version of us would be just as hooked on it as they are,” McKenna said.
He suggested using parental control tools, monitoring what your kids are doing on devices and, most importantly, engaging in regular conversations with kids.
“You cannot control your children as the only form of parenting in the digital age. In my experience, that just turns your kids into a bunch of digital ninjas and they’re really good at what they do online,” McKenna said.
He also called for better regulation of the technology and social media industries.
“It’s not all on parents to get this right,” he said. “Policies and companies also have a responsibility to get this right when it comes to kids.”