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Parental Control Apps May Not Help in Shielding Teenagers From Cyber Threats

Teenagers may not be safe from cyber threats despite of the parental control apps

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Microsoft
Tech support scams are a problem worldwide, with three out of five people globally having experienced one in the past year.

Mobile apps designed to help parents keep their teenaged children safe from online predators may harm the trust between a parent and child, as well as reduce the child’s ability to respond to cyber threats, to researchers say.

The findings showed that the use of parental control apps was associated with teenagers experiencing more, not fewer, online risks, including unwanted explicit content, harassment, and online sexual solicitations.

“Parental involvement and direct supervision were both associated with fewer peer problems and less online victimisation for teenagers, but neither of these factors correlated with the use of parental control apps,” said Arup Kumar Ghosh, a doctoral student in the University of Central Florida.

Cyber threats may be ahead.
Cyber Threats Ahead.

“Our findings suggest that most parental-control apps are those that attempt to control what teenagers can do online, but ultimately do little to keep them safe online,” added Pamela Wisniewski, Assistant Professor at the University.

In another study, the team analysed 736 publicly posted reviews written by teenagers and younger children for parental-control apps available for download on Google Play.

They found that approximately 79 per cent of the reviews written by children rated the apps at either two stars or less out of a possible five.

It is because the apps were overly restrictive, were an invasion of their personal privacy, and supported “lazy” or bad parenting instead of improving communication channels between them and their parents.

Also Read: McAfee unveils refreshed cyber security solutions portfolio

The apps also prevented them from doing everyday tasks, such as homework assignments, and turned their parents into “stalkers.”

“Teenagers and even younger children told us loudly and clearly that they would rather their parents talk to them than use parental control apps,” Ghosh said.

By trying to completely shield teens from experiencing any and all online risks, some parents are keeping teens from developing the necessary coping mechanisms that they will need throughout their lives, the researchers suggested.

The results will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Montreal.

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Researchers Associate Social Media Usage With Anxiety Among Teenagers

Study says that social media use is linked with anxiety among adolescents

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Anxiety
Social Media Usage can increase anxiety related issues among teenagers. Pixabay

Researchers have found that social media use, television viewing and computer use, but not video gaming, are linked to an increase in anxiety symptoms among adolescents.

The study, published by Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, shows that a higher than average frequency of social media use, television viewing and computer use over four years predicts more severe symptoms of anxiety for the same time frame.

“These findings suggest that one way to help teens manage anxiety could be to help them limit the amount of time they spend in front of screens”, said a study researcher Patricia Conrod from the University of Montreal in Canada.

Over and above a potential common vulnerability to both sets of behaviours, the study demonstrates that if a teen experienced an increase in their social media use, television viewing and computer use in a given year which surpassed their overall average level of use, then his or her anxiety symptoms also increased in that same year.

Furthermore, when adolescents decreased their social media use, television viewing, and computer use, their symptoms of anxiety became less severe. Thus, no lasting effects were found.

Social Media and anxiety
Studies have found that higher than average frequency of social media use, television viewing and computer use over four years predicts more severe symptoms of anxiety. Pixabay

“It appears that computer use is uniquely associated to increases in anxiety, potentially in relation to using the computer for homework activities, but this needs further research,” said the study lead author Elroy Boers.

For the findings, the research team followed almost 4,000 Canadian teenagers from age 12 to 16 who were part of the Co-Venture Trial. Each year of high school, teens were asked to self-report time spent in front of digital screens and specified amount of time spent engaging in four different types of screen time activities (social media, television, video gaming and computer use).

Moreover, the teenagers completed self-reported questionnaires on various anxiety symptoms at ages 12 to 16.

Then, after data collection, state-of-the-art statistical analyses were performed to assess the between-person, with-person, and lagged-within person associations between screen time and anxiety in adolescence.

These analyses augment standard analyses by modelling the year-to-year changes of both sets of problems, thus, taking into account possible common vulnerability and possible natural developmental changes in each set of behaviours or symptoms.

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The study findings indicate social media use, television viewing, and computer use are predictors of anxiety in adolescence.

“While our results are based on observational research design, the nature of statistical approach that we used to test possible causal effects robustly controlled for any potential common underlying vulnerability to high levels of screen time and anxiety,” Conrod said. (IANS)