Extra screen time for work and school pose threats you should be prepared for

Cyberbullying and identity theft are concerns
Posted at 11:20 AM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 00:46:06-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — If you're still working from home or have kids doing virtual learning, you're probably spending more time on your devices than ever before. News5 speaks with experts about why setting boundaries on screen time and helping kids to understand online threats are important to help us rebound from these changes.

Cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Many of us need these tools to do our jobs and school work from home right now. A lot of good comes from this technology, but mental health and cybersecurity experts say with all of the extra time on these devices we have to be careful.

"I've seen research indicating that there's going to be more data in circulation in the next year than in all of human history," said J. Michael Skiba of CSU Global, who has earned the nickname "Dr. Fraud" for his work in fraud psychology, criminology and research. "It's just because kids have 7 hours and 22 minutes of screen time a day."

All of that extra screen time makes a kid's device a target rich environment for cybercriminals.

"About one and a half million children were subject to identity theft back about a year ago," said Skiba. "We're going to see that's going to skyrocket in the years to come."

In search of sensitive information, these crooks can create some serious headaches for families who aren't careful.

"60% of the emails that (kids) receive could be fraudulent and 30% of them open those," said Skiba. "So there's that social vulnerability that goes into that."

"It's no wonder that we've got kiddos who are victimized and we may not even know where it came from. There's so many ways from a cyber type of mentality that can happen. I had no idea the statistic on the emails. That's really scary," said Cassaundra Hein a local mental health expert and parent.

Hein is also trying to navigate the increasing amounts of screen time for her kids. She decided to set some boundaries.

"It is so easy to get into that rutt of like okay just go watch it, go play games for the next hour until we finish," said Hein. "But the reality is if you put in the new structure and routine the kids can get used too and then they know what to expect. Our kids now know and they did fight it. That first couple days will be a fight, but no. There's no screen time. No screen times. You go outside and play. You can ride your bike."

She warns parents also need to be on the lookout for cyberbullying.

"I have a lot of clients that definitely have been victims of cyberbullying or bullying in general, but through a device or through the phone," said Hein.

Fraud experts say kids who have experienced online bullying are sometimes an easy target for cyber criminals.

"They might friend someone, or click on a link, or they get a nice message from someone. So there's that link that goes with that as well. So it's kind of a path that's very disturbing," said Skiba.

The mental health impact and online dangers of extra screen time for kids are real, but the experts say parents can take steps to keep everyone safe.

"I would say absolutely parents need to take the driver's seat and really develop strategies to educate the children, but then also use some technology tools as well to try to protect themselves," said Skiba.

Here's your Rebound Rundown for managing screen time:

- Consider setting boundaries and a routine for screen time

- Ask, who are your kids interacting with on devices?

- Remember, cyber bullying increases vulnerability to cyber crimes

- Talk to your kids about online threats and how to stay safe

- Ultimately parents can take control by setting appropriate parental controls on devices