Parents are conflicted about letting kids socialize

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A new study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Smith Micro Software, Inc. finds that parents are facing a whole new set of challenges amid the pandemic. (Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels)

Eight in 10 parents feel conflicted about allowing their child to socialize during the new school year, according to new research.

The study of 2,000 parents of school-aged children revealed 79% of respondents agree that while they recognize socializing is important for their child’s social development, they need to balance that with the need to not put them or others at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

Not surprisingly, 75% of respondents said keeping track of their child’s social interactions in order to mitigate the risk of their child or other family members contracting COVID-19 is a major source of anxiety for them.

Further, nearly half (46%) of parents surveyed are using or are considering using a contact tracing app to keep tabs on who their family has been in contact with.

While almost the same number (45%) of parents have adopted or would consider adopting a location tracking app to monitor their child’s travels to and from school.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Smith Micro Software, Inc., the study also probed new rules and restrictions that parents are implementing this school year to face an ever-changing environment and the accompanying guidelines and restrictions.

New rules around socializing include requiring the child to wear a mask while socializing (48%) and limiting the number of people their child can socialize with at one time (44%).

That’s in addition to requiring their children and children’s friends to social distance when at their house (38%) and not allowing their children to visit friends whose families they don’t know (38%).

And, when it comes to kids’ social events, parents aren’t taking too many options off the table.

Nearly half said they’ll allow their kids to attend birthday parties, though only 26% said sleepovers are on the agenda.

About four in 10 are OK with sporting events, but only 14% are comfortable with allowing their kids to attend concerts.

In the case of extracurricular activities, one in five parents said school clubs are entirely off the table this year, and one in four said other activities like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are out as well.

“In a school year defined by a global pandemic, having insight into the whereabouts of children and their daily social interactions and activities has never been more important to parents,” said William W. Smith, Jr., President and CEO of Smith Micro.

“Because of this heightened attention, a growing number of parents are making location-based technology a part of their lifestyle as it is a useful way to keep track of their kids.”

But keeping kids safe offline is only half the battle, as 69% of respondents said online schooling has made parents more concerned about their child’s internet safety than ever before.

An even higher majority of respondents (85%) have used a parental control application provided by their internet or cell phone provider to monitor their child’s internet usage since the pandemic began.

In spite of the prevalence of monitoring, a full 62% of parents believe their child is more likely to engage in undesirable online behavior due to the limited social conditions imposed by COVID-19.

Four in 10 have even caught their child streaming video content or using social media when they were supposed to be attending class online, and three in 10 have even caught their child viewing adult content online.

Further complicating the challenges, 61% said their child’s use of multiple internet-connected devices makes it particularly hard to monitor their internet use, and 63% said they find the task of monitoring their child’s internet use more closely to be overwhelming.

The surge in usage of connected technology brought on by the pandemic hasn’t been entirely negative, though.

Nearly six in 10 respondents say they’re more grateful for the technology, and the way it allows them to stay connected with family and friends when physical social interaction isn’t possible.

“As the boundary between our digital and physical worlds continues to blur, the demand for parenting tools that help safeguard kids both on- and offline will only grow,” Smith said.

“By providing robust location services with cross-device parental controls such as screen time management and age-based content filters in the same mobile app, our SafePath platform addresses an acute need in the family safety market.”

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