Being alone a device can easily lead to making poor choices. As a parent, you can help your children make wise choices so you all can enjoy peace of mind with technology.
Your Children Are Online
Many children over eight years old have a personal digital device—usually a tablet on home wi-fi. But by age eleven most children have smartphones that allow for more independence and mobility. As a result, our children can easily spend several hours a day scrolling through social media, chatting with friends, playing games, and surfing the web.
In our present coronavirus distress, children are on their digital devices more than ever. Even “going back to school” this fall appears to include remote learning for many families, requiring students to complete much of their class time and assignments online. Yes, technology can help with education, but it also leads to distraction, wasting time, and lack of focus.
Your children need you to help them navigate these difficult times.
Apart from the increased use of technology, this COVID-19 quarantine has also led many children to be anxious or depressed. Canceled events, social isolation, and fear of illness can discourage children. And these emotional struggles can make them more vulnerable to poor choices online.
So, be alert to changes in your children as they use technology. How are their sleep patterns, nutrition, and exercise? Have they become sullen and isolated? Do they quickly hide, close, or shut down their device when you come near them?
Your children need you to help them navigate these difficult times and develop healthy habits that will serve them all their lives.
Training Your Children Through Open Conversation
As with many other aspects of parenting, one of the best things you can do with your children is talk with them. Open communication about life issues benefits everyone. Your children must feel comfortable sharing their joys, struggles, and concerns. They also need to hear your perspective so they can interpret life and respond appropriately. Conversing with each other means talking some, and listening more.
One of the best things you can do with your children is talk with them.
Your ongoing conversation should include a review of their decisions and actions regarding technology. Digital accountability helps them understand the benefits and dangers of computers, smartphones, and other devices. While filtering could be part of your solution, it shouldn’t be your only tool. Your children need to know you will ask them about their online activities.
Consider developing clear guidelines on technology use in your family. Think about the following kinds of questions:
- What technology will you use?
- Who pays for the technology, including purchase, service plan, and repairs?
- Why will you use it?
- How will you use it?
- What social media platforms are allowed, if any?
- Where will you use it? What locations are off-limits?
- When and how much will you use it? What times are off-limits?
Specific Areas to Equip and Train
You will also want to equip and train your children in specific ways.
Explore what your child needs to complete their academic studies. How do their teachers use technology? What apps are required? Make sure your children understand how to get their schoolwork done.
Teach them to focus on schoolwork and eliminate distractions. For example, they might limit the number of apps installed on the device and turn off notifications to avoid getting sidetracked. Designate specific times to check and respond to messages and posts, rather than checking constantly throughout the day.
Help your children cultivate relationships both online and offline.
Help them be aware of suspicious websites, emails, links, and apps. Show them how to identify spam emails. Work with them to configure privacy settings on the apps and sites you use. Show them how to protect their privacy by safeguarding usernames and passwords.
If your child must be on a social media platform, pick one and join it with them. Help them to know what personal information to keep private and what is acceptable to share online. Help them understand what they post online becomes part of their permanent digital footprint. Even posts meant to be private can be made public and broadcasted beyond their original intent.
Especially in these days of limited in-person contact, help your children cultivate relationships both online and offline. They should accept a friend or follow requests only from individuals they know personally. Please encourage your child to share their concerns with you and to report troublesome experiences they have online.
Enjoy Peace of Mind
Digital technology provides opportunities for good things and bad things. While you need not fear your child’s use of technology, you do need to spend time training them to use it in constructive ways.
Expect challenges and disappointments along the way, but strive to reinforce your child’s sense of responsibility and help them use their devices wisely. Enjoy peace of mind for yourself and your children through digital accountability.