A study posted in the Journal of the American Medicine Association Open Network found parents were concerned about online activity and communication among their kids and the possible negative consequences of excessive or problematic internet use.
Some research has associated excessive internet use with problems including higher rates of depression and anxiety, difficulty socializing, problems with empathy and difficulty coping with risk. However, other research has suggested these fears may be overstated based on small sample sizes used in the research.
Researchers surveyed parents about their children’s internet use, which was defined as browsing the web on computers, using email or other messaging tools, using cellphones for calls, messaging, social media, accessing streaming media or gaming, consuming digital media including streaming video and internet TV and the use of other connected devices, such as game consoles.
The majority of parents (71.6%) said they were confident their children knew how to use the internet responsibly and that they were able to discuss internet use with their kids (80.8%). They were also confident about accurately determining appropriate amounts of screen time and providing alternative activities.
Despite those responses, parents were still worried about internet addiction. Researchers also asked parents about their concerns regarding substance addiction in their children in comparison to fears about internet addiction.
Roughly a third of parents (34.9%) had no concerns at all about internet addiction or substance addictions, while a similar number (32.9%) were equally worried about addictions to the internet and to substances. Just 22.4% said they were only concerned about internet addiction and 9.8% worried only about substance addiction.
When it came to specific activities, social networks were the most concerning, worrying 30.2% of parents while 12.3% worried about gaming addictions. Facebook was the social network parents were most concerned about while Fortnite, Roblox and Grand Theft Auto were named as the biggest concerns among those worried about gaming.
The study did not survey the children regarding their internet use and relied on parental responses.