Every parent I know is facing the same fears and asking the same questions about their kids and technology...
How do I monitor their online activity?
Are my kids targets of cyber predators?
Is cyber bullying really something my kids are struggling with?
Have my kids been exposed to inappropriate material online?
These are just some of the questions parents are asking. These are fearful days if you are raising kids. Most parents are relatively naive to the dangers lurking on smart phones, tablets, gaming systems and computers. Every device has multiple ways to access material that has the potential to threaten and damage a child’s healthy development. It’s not just porn. It’s not just bullying. It’s not just self-esteem struggles over follows, likes and shares. It’s not just sexting. It’s not just predators out there seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting kids. It’s not just spending too much time with their eyes glued to a screen. It’s all of it—in massive doses. It’s not just the problem of a few; it’s a problem for EVERY parent.
Now, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Technology can be a very good thing. We live in an incredible time in history. You kids can learn and grow in remarkable ways due to technology. So, what is a parent to do? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions and best practices to offer and a few resources to connect you with.
- Don’t be passive regarding technology. Get involved. Be skeptical. Look over your child’s shoulder. Make sure there is regular oversight to the technology your kids use.
- Fight the good fight. We all know it’s a fight. Our kids whine and complain every time we attempt to put limits around their tech. Don’t give in. They need limits. The boundaries are good.
- Less is better. The less time your kids spend online and on screens the better. Technology is mainstream, but we are losing essential activities for kids like interpersonal socializing, outdoor play and adult conversation.
- It’s not if, it’s when. Your child WILL, and likely already has, viewed inappropriate content or interacted online inappropriately. You MUST be willing to start and maintain ongoing conversations about online behavior and exposure to damaging content. You don’t want to shame your kids, there’s enough of that online, you want to call them up to a higher standard.
- Technology sabbaticals. Periodically, cut technology in your home completely (including you mom and dad) to help your kids see that there is a life outside of technology. This may be something you employ on your family vacation (no excuses you can take pictures with your digital camera and post a recap on Instagram when you get home). You may decide one day a week is a blackout day at your house. It’s a great way to model and teach your children proper restraint.
Lastly, I would highly recommend you talk to my friends over at The Good Viking
. These guys are here to help you understand how to monitor and protect your children with technology. They recommend some helpful devices and can walk you through parental control settings and give you peace of mind that you have good boundaries in place.
Make every day count!