June Is National Internet Safety Month!

Written by PTC | Published June 14, 2024

The school year has finally ended, or will soon be ending for most school-aged children across the United States.

I know how tempting it can be, especially when you have work to do and the kids start complaining that they are bored, to set them down in front of a TV or computer, or to hand them a smartphone or tablet to keep them occupied and out of trouble during the day. Maybe that’s the reason June was designated National Internet Safety Month: To remind us that no matter how much we might want to let our kids pass the time online during summer vacation, the risks just aren’t worth it.

In “The Anxious Generation,” social psychologist Jonathan Haidt shows us what happens when kids are overprotected in the real world, and under-protected online: Rates of teen anxiety, depression, self-harm, and loneliness track closely with the advent and widespread adoption of smartphones and social media. Digital technologies push children into an online world that is neither safe nor appropriate for their developing bodies and minds. At the same time, these technologies stunt their development and infantilize them in the real world. Girls in particular are affected by social media, which can contribute to eating disorders and lead to sexual harassment and solicitation from older men, and bullying and blackmail from peers.

So what can you do as a parent or grandparent to encourage internet safety this month and all throughout summer vacation?

The first and most important step is to keep your kids off screens and devices as much as possible. And if screen use is unavoidable, make sure the devices are used in public spaces of the home (no phones in bedrooms or bathrooms, for example), are turned-in at night, and that you are aware of what they are doing online at all times. We have some tips on how to encourage healthy screen habits during the summer months here.

Secondly, foster and encourage more unstructured play. Give your child an opportunity to develop creative thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution and social skills. Letting your child test their abilities and push themselves to try new things will help them develop competence and competence will help grow confidence, which is the best way to combat anxiety.

Third, contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to bring the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) to the floor for a vote; and to advance other important bills aimed at keeping kids safe online like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0), the Earn It Act, and Kids Off Social Media Act (KOSMA). Big Tech and social media companies simply cannot be trusted to do what’s right and necessary to keep kids safe – Congress must act, and the sooner, the better. You can look up your Congressional representatives and get their contact information here.

Fourth, please consider making a generous donation to help the PTC continue its important work of informing, educating and empowering parents and caregivers; holding Hollywood and Big Tech accountable; and fostering wholesome, family-friendly entertainment.

Together, we can forge a better future for our children and generations to come. But it starts at home, and these small steps can go a long way toward helping families thrive.

Take Action. Stay Informed.