Living in a world where children are “growing up digital”, it’s crucial that parents help them cultivate healthy digital habits.
It becomes overwhelming not to know where to draw the line and decide the correct consumption and overconsumption for something as necessary as technology. It's neither fair nor possible to refrain kids from technology; however, knowing how to strike a balance can help.
Here are a few tips for parents to help them sail through the changing landscape of digital technology.
Make Your Customized Family Media Plan
Media is a part of our lives that we can't erase. You must talk to your children about media consumption and teach them to use it thoughtfully and appropriately. You must make your media plan and stick to it. Ensure there's no media engagement during important offline activities like family time, outdoor play, before bed, meals, etc.
Check Those Apps For Kids
Every app installed on the phone has to go through parents' approval, especially for kids until age 15. You must be aware of what your kids consume through "educational apps". These apps often store sensitive information, show inappropriate ads, and may have content that is not fit for the child. You must ensure that kids need to get the app approved by you before they access it.
Media Is Just Another Environment In Your Child's Life
Hating technology or blaming it won't do any good. It is here to stay and advance with time. Treating it like any other environment in your child's life would be best. The same parenting guidelines apply here. Make your rules and make sure kids follow them. Set limits, expect kids to stick to them, have parental controls in place and keep a check on your child's online activity. Know your children's friends, both offline and online, and provide them with the comfort they need to share issues and daily happening with you. Do not forget that they need to see you as a mentor and friend to reach out whenever they want.
Value Face-To-Face Communication
It's easy and convenient to give a device to that toddler when you're occupied with work. What's easier is that the toddler builds a dependency on it. Two-way honest communication is essential for language development in kids. Hence, keep your devices away from young kids. Conversations must be face to face; if necessary, the parents can set a video call if not available in person.
Revamp Screen Time With Co-Screen Time
While it's possible that your children might not be happy with it, screen time doesn't always have to be alone time. Co-play, co-engage, and co-view with your children every once in a while when they're using screens. This way, you'll be aware of their digital footprints and encourage social interactions, learning and bonding with the kids. Instead of only monitoring the how-to of the online world, engage with them in their online world. Play a game, watch a show together, interact and share your experiences. These will improve the bond you share and allow you to understand their online life better.
Create Tech-Free Zones
Creating tech-free zones can help you minimize unnecessary tech consumption. Keep family mealtimes, bedrooms, social gatherings, family time, and outings screen-free. Have a fixed time for television access. Make sure you switch off the television when not watching because the background noise is equally consuming. Recharge the devices overnight where kids do not have access to them. This will reduce the temptation of using the device and allow kids to sleep peacefully.
Be A Good Role Model
As parents, you must teach kids the ethics of the digital world. It's easy to be the bad mouth behind the screen, and kids get carried away, especially teenagers. Make sure you teach them how to behave in the online realms. And do not forget that kids are excellent mimics, so model what you preach. Make sure you do what you say.
Limit Digital Media Consumption For Your Youngest Family Members
Kids below 24 months shouldn't consume media except video chatting if necessary. Parents must watch the media with them and interact alongside them as they watch and learn while you talk to them. Limit screen time for preschool children to an hour a day. Co-viewing is the best option when the younger kids have access to screens. Not only do they learn best when they are taught in real life along with screens, but you can also ensure that they do not consume any inappropriate content, not even mistakenly.
Allow Your Teens To Be Online
Teenage is a complicated phase. Online relationships and friendships are a part of any typical adolescent development. With social media in play, you cannot keep your kids away from it or the things that come as a part of it. You can educate them and make them aware of the consequences of their actions. Make sure you provide them with the space they need to explore themselves and the comfort they need. Talk to them about their online relationship and ensure they behave ethically in the online space. Keep their privacy settings in check and check what they post and whom they talk to. Warn your children about the importance of privacy and the consequences of predators and sexting. All this can be done as a parent without bothering the child or "intruding in their private space". Be open to communicating if they want to, and let them know you're there if they have questions or concerns.
Remember, Kids Will Be Kids
They will make mistakes many times while using media. Kids on social media would want to be cool kids and may want to do things that may appear inappropriate to them. Handle their mistakes with empathy. Turn it into a teachable lesson. Warn them when you see the red flags; despite it, if they continue with the unacceptable behaviour, you must do what needs to be done and seek help from professionals.
How do you handle the media consumption of your children? Please share with us in the comments section below.