According to research from the World Health Organization, Israeli children ages 11-15 spend more time surfing the Internet than kids their age anywhere in the world. And when it comes to TV time, Israeli kids took the silver medal – losing out to Armenia in terms of hours spent watching the boob tube.
The WHO findings indicate that 28.5% of Israeli children in this age group spend at least four hours a day surfing the Internet. To compare, only 3.8% of Swiss children in the same age group spent a similar amount of time on-line. Over a third (35.8%) of Israeli 11 to 15-year-olds spent more that four hours a day watching television.
Dr. Yossi Harel-Fish, head Israeli researcher for the WHO and head of International Research Program on Adolscent Well-Being & Health at Bar-Ilan University, said that the fact that a third of Israeli children spend most of their free time on the unsupervised Internet, full of temptation and harmful content, should be a cause for concern among parents and professionals.
“The adult population is not aware or skilled enough in the ways of the Internet, its advantages and dangers,” Harel-Fish said. “This means that our ability to supervise and allow responsible, safe Internet usage is weakened as long as the technology accessible to young people increases.”
Harel-Fish claims that children’s real – not virtual – lives take place on Facebook, chat, and other Internet spaces. “Our goal as a mature society is to learn about this space quickly and develop ways to direct, supervise, and allow our children and youth to enjoy these amazing technologies – social life and studies – in safety, responsibly, and from a place of positive growth.”
Addressing the issue of watching television, Harel-Fish clarified that there had actually been a decline in screen time. In 2002 the number of children who watched four hours a day of TV or more stood at 47%, compared to the 35.8% in 2011. However, it’s no cause for celebration. According to the researchers, children who abandoned TV moved to the computer. And despite the decline, Israel is still No. 2 in Europe, after Armenia, in terms of the amount of time kids spend staring at the small screen.
The study did not examine how many children were in both groups – that is, watch TV four hours a day and surf the net four hours a day. In any case, if the numbers are combined, the picture is frightening: from 60% of Israeli children spending at least four hours a day staring at one screen or another to 30% “enjoying” eight hours of screen time daily. The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle – we can suppose that half of Israeli children are addicted to electronic media to one degree or another.
Dr. Meyran Boniel-Nissim of the Faculty of Education at Bar-Ilan University warns that during summer vacation, many children spend most of their time on the Internet at night.
According to Boniel-Nissim, parents are sometimes unaware of this and think that the children are sleeping. “Late night encourages conversations with strange ‘friends’ that quickly become sexual,” she cautions, urging parents to talk to their children about this at the beginning of the break.
“Negotiate, set clear limits early, think up activities to do together,” she advised.” Boniel-Nissim noted that “summer vacation is full of expenses, noise, and irritation, and plopping kids down in front of the screen is an easy solution, but it’s important that parents take note of the hours and the content.”
Source: YNET NEWS