Experts in digital safety
Spanish parents aren’t worried enough about online threats: only 2% believe their child has suffered from cyberbullying during the Covid pandemic
- Qustodio ran a study to find out how Spanish parents perceive Covid-19 is affecting their children in 3 specific areas: personal, digital and educational.
- 65% of parents do not believe that Covid-19 has changed the probability that their child is a victim of bullying, although cyberbullying has increased by 70%.
- Social relations and education, with 85% and 82% respectively, are the areas in which children have been most affected by Covid-19.
- 1 in 3 Spanish households has acquired a new digital device due to the pandemic.
- Approximately 6 out of 10 families say that the pandemic has caused their children to suffer from screen addictions.
- 7 out of 10 Spanish children have increased the time they spend online for school.
- 3 out of every 10 kids don’t get outside the recommended minimum of 1 hour per day.
- 29% of children have suffered from poor concentration and bad moods and / or aggressive behavior since the start of the pandemic.
- 60% of parents think their children learn worse online.
The national closure of schools, the State of Alarm decree, 97 days of confinement, the mandatory use of a mask for those over 6 years old … 2020 has been a year of rapid and profound changes in society and it is affecting centennials more than others, a generation that has to learn and grow up during it all.
To find out how the new reality is affecting Spanish children in three specific areas – personal, digital and educational – Qustodio, the leader in online safety and digital wellbeing for families, carried out a study: ”Centennials: a generation marked by Covid-19”. They surveyed 1,000 parents with children between 7 and 15 years of age across Spain (Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Andalusia, and Castilla y León) on the changes they’ve noted since the pandemic restrictions set in. They also worked with family psychologist Maria Guerrero to understand what impact those changes could have on children over the long term.
In terms of personal changes, parents said that social relations (85%), education (82%) and physical activity (71%), the latter more common among boys than girls, are the areas where their children have been most affected by Covid-19. In addition, 3 out of 10 children have suffered from lack of concentration and bad mood/aggressive behavior during the pandemic. Sleep problems (18%), depression (13%), weight gain or loss (12%) and lower self-esteem (7%) are other physical and psychological changes that parents report have occurred during the pandemic.
The time minors spend outdoors has also been affected. In fact, 30% of Spanish children spend less than the recommended 1 hour a day outdoors. In Madrid that percentage rises to 40%. At the opposite extreme is the Basque Country where 87% of kids get outdoors at last 1 hour per day.
Hand in hand with getting outdoors less, has come a reduction in exercise: 7 out of 10 families say that their child exercises less than before the Covid-19. Meanwhile, most say that food consumption has remained the same. Two facts that together can signal a near future with greater childhood obesity, one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.
In terms of digital habits, 1 in 3 Spanish parents reported having acquired a new digital device due to Covid-19, with Catalonia being the community that has bought the most, with 37%. The top three most purchased new devices are: computers (14%), tablets (12%) and smartphones (6%). In addition, there has been a 34% increase in the number of registrations to online video entertainment platforms and services. Andalusia reported the biggest rise at 42%. Netflix was the service most parents subscribed to (15%), followed closely by Disney+ (12%).
If we talk about the threats that parents believe their children have suffered online during the pandemic, 6 out of 10 families say that Covid-19 has led to greater addiction to screens. In the case of families with children between 9 and 13 years old, it reaches 70%. In addition, 11% of Spanish parents believe that their children have accessed inappropriate content during this time, reaching its highest peaks in families with 11-year-old girls and 13-year-old boys.
When it comes to bullying, only 2% of families believe that their child has suffered cyberbullying during the pandemic. While this sounds good on the surface, it is actually a concern in a time when most studies massive increases in cyberbullying rates. A study by L1ght report states that harassment through social networks and chats has grown almost 70%. That most parents (65%) think that their children have the same or less possibilities of being harassed (bullying) than before Covid-19, doesn’t add up and means that parents are probably missing something.
So what are parents doing to protect their children from online threats? The use of parental control measures has only increased by 6% due to the pandemic, with Catalonia and Castilla y León being the regions in which it has grown the most. A significant figure in a few months in which the use of the internet by minors has clearly increased. In fact, during confinement, internet use increased by up to 60% in OECD countries, according to figures from the organization, and the online activity of Spanish minors grew by 180% in the first week with schools closed, according to Qustodio data.
Although most parents (63%) report setting up time limits, blocking apps is the parental control activity that has experienced the greatest growth (+ 5%) compared to the pre-Covid-19 era. Interestingly, in general, parents use more protection measures with boys than with girls, and for kids between 12 to 14 years of age.
In terms of education, an area which has undergone the most transformation with new methodologies and models 13% of parents report their child is learning in a hybrid (face-to-face and online) way right now. For secondary education, this percentage rises to 30% with Madrid and Andalusia in the lead in terms of online learning.
However, 6 out of 10 families consider that their child learns worse remotely, with Castilla y León in the lead with 69%. Only 5% of Spanish parents consider that their children learn better from home. By gender, Spanish parents believe that boys learn much worse from home than girls, 67% compared to 53%.
What about educational apps? 7 out of 10 children have started to use some new communication software in the classroom or learning app that they did not use before Covid-19, mostly starting at age 9. Google Classroom is the most ed-tech software reported by 37% of parents.
How much more time are kids spending online for their education? The report estimates that 70% of parents believe that the number of hours their children spend online for school (in class + homework) has increased since the beginning of the pandemic. From the age of 11 this percentage rises to 80%, with Andalusia and Madrid being the Autonomous Communities where it has increased the most.
When asked about the grade they could give their children’s school, in terms of how well they are handling the pandemic, 47% of families approve. Catalonia stands out, with 57%, as the community with the highest approval. Nevertheless, 16% of parents consider that schools are not handling the technological changes as well as they should.
The Qustodio report also looks to the future and what parents need to do now. According to psychologist Maria Gurrero, it is important that both mothers and fathers admit their own doubts related to the pandemic, talk openly with their children and act as role-models by managing their own moods and screen time habits well, not just their kids’.
Management of emotions is important because a bad mood and aggressiveness can cause sleep disturbances that lead to chronic fatigue and insomnia. Fear and uncertainty can also lead to psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression and even agoraphobia, making going out and interacting with more people challenging.
Management of screen time is important, because the significant increase in digital consumption can lead to the development of addictive behaviors, isolation and the vulnerability of minors, by exposing themselves to a greater degree to online risks.
Taking children out of a face-to-face educational environment has led to a decrease in the ability to concentrate that is compounded by a lack of fixed routines that affect organization, time management and the ability to learn. The reduction of hours in school and with peers can increase the individualism of the minors, the lack of companionship and the feeling of team.
Therefore, and to prevent certain problems from developing as a result of the “new normal”, it is important to maintain clear conversations with children, tweens and teens, and not hide information from them; establish sleep, leisure time and digital routines; lead by example and protect them from threats of the digital world with systems that help parents to control screen time and online content.
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