AG Ford encourages screen time limits for teens

Two children sit on a sofa looking as a phone and a tablet.
Two children sit on a sofa looking as a phone and a tablet.(KEYC News Now)
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 11:40 AM PST
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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford is encouraging screen time limits for teens and their families as part of National Consumer Protection Week.

“Screen media platforms are useful for both education and entertainment,” said Ford. “However, constant and prolonged use of these platforms increases the vulnerability of our personal information and can be a contributing factor to adverse physical and emotional health conditions. Good habits are best developed when we’re young, and I encourage all Nevadans to be mindful of these risks and use moderation in your consumption.”

Ford listed some of the dangers of associated with prolonged screen time:

  • Depression and anxiety associated with cyberbullying. Many messages posted on social media have more permanence than a personal conversation, because the messages can be revisited multiple times. Reading negative messages repeatedly can lead to depression and anxiety;
  • Sleep deprivation and unhealthy eating habits. Whereas many consumers set aside specific time to read a book or watch a scheduled television program, screen media is always available to be consumed and can be difficult to turn off. This constant access may interfere with healthy sleep patterns and encourage greater consumption of fast or easy food options;
  • Increased vulnerability to sexual predators. Predators can easily be anonymous or hide their identity on many screen media platforms. Teens and young adults may be lured when they feel flattered that someone older and more successful finds them attractive, and the use of private chat rooms allows anonymous predators to develop trust with their intended victims;
  • Increased vulnerability of your personal information. When teens register for screen media platforms, they may provide several items of personal information.  Then, while using the platform, they may volunteer additional items of personal information, such as real-time location; pictures and names of friends and family; and employment history. The privacy policies that govern these platforms, including educational platforms, often allow the company to sell that information to third parties, or use it for marketing purposes. However, the more sources that have your information, the greater risk that it can be accessed in a data breach, and used later in a scam to take your money;
  • Exposure of your biometric data. Many consumers are already comfortable with providing their fingerprint to access a device. But virtual reality platforms can collect even more biometric data, such as your pulse, reaction time, respiration rate, blood pressure, and other vital statistics. In the future, biometric data may be used in developing facial recognition technology. While the collection of this data may enhance the virtual experience, the compromise of that data may make it easier for impostors to assume someone’s identity

Ford is also listing actions he says you can take to minimize your risk and protect your teen’s mental health:

  • Go on a screen time diet. Set a goal for reducing your daily screen time, and find other options: exercise, walk your dog, read an old-fashioned paperback, play board games, and enjoy talking to each other;
  • Don’t be a bully or a victim. While on social media, engage in group discussions in a respectful manner.  Resist the impulse to exchange insults.  Leave conversations that make you feel bad, and unfriend or disassociate yourself from other users that are not a positive influence for you;
  • Review your privacy settings on all apps you use, and carefully consider what information should be available to anyone, and what information should be limited only to your friends. Also, review settings that govern what the site is allowed to do with your information and limit its ability to share it with others. If the app won’t allow you to control your privacy settings, then consider closing your account;
  • Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. If a stranger sends you a friend request, see if any of your friends know them, and talk to those friends before you accept the request. If you don’t have any friends in common that you trust, then deny the request; and
  • Trust your instincts. If something looks suspicious, it probably is.