One of the biggest parenting issues that our generation has to deal with, that other generations did not have to worry with, is technology.
Our parents and grandparents thought very little about screen time. Sure we had television, but technology has gotten so pervasive in our lives that it goes with is everywhere. We used to have to leave our tv shows and movies at home. There were no iPhones, apps, or social media.
We are raising the first generation of digital natives. Technology is everywhere.
Look around, I bet your phone is within your reach right now. There’s actually a good chance that you are reading this on a portable device like a phone or tablet.
These are awesome devices that provide us with endless information at our fingertips. Seriously, I love technology.
However, as parents, it can be hard to know what limits to set for our children when it comes to technology.
We have to figure out how much screen time is too much.
We have to guard our children against information on the internet that they are not ready to see yet.
We have to worry about how to keep children safe from online bullies and predators.
As amazing as technology can be, it can also present some dangers for our children.
So how do we keep kids safe online?
Put Boundaries on Screen Time
For younger children, I like having technology a part of our daily routine. It’s something that’s only done for a few minutes every day, around the same time of day. This keeps children from wanting to be on the tablet or watching television all day.
For older children, put boundaries around when they are and are not allowed to be on their devices. For example, all devices off by 9pm, and charge them in a family living space, like the living room. No devices at the dinner table, or before school. Pick times that work best for your family. Look into signing a technology contract with your child.
There’s an awesome app where you can schedule your child’s time on their tablet or phone.
Talk with Them About Social Media and the Internet
Like most things, it’s important to have an honest discussion with your kids about social media and the dangers of the internet.
Have conversations with children about social media, texting, and cyber-bullying. It’s important that children (and adults) pay attention to how they are portrayed online. That conversation should start at home with the parents.
The more honest and open you are about technology, the more willing your children are going to be about discussing any online problems with you.
Be a Good Role Model
Adults can be just as addicted to their devices as children can. I know that I’m pretty guilty of this. I’m a checker and am constantly checking to see what’s going on in my online world.
However, if I set rules for my children, then I need to live by those rules too. If I say, no phones at the dinner table, then I better not have mine at the table. If there’s a strict no phone while driving rule, then my kids better not see my phone in my hand while driving.
Along these lines, it’s important to be respectful of your child’s wants when it comes to their online presence. If your child is old enough, ask if you can share their picture on social media.
Pay attention to how you portray yourself and your child on social media. Children are always watching and learning from us. If you are disrespectful on social media, your child may be too. After all, they learn from you.
Keep Technology Public
Have access to your kid’s devices. Check them and know what they are doing online. Charge them in family living spaces, and keep computers in open places as well.
My children are still young, so we have family technology time where we all sit on the couch together and spend some time with our devices. I often play on the tablet with my boys. At the minimum, I can peek over and quickly see what they are up to.
As they grow, this may not be something that’s possible, so that’s why I believe parental controls are a must.
Parental controls are necessary to keep kids safe in the online world.
There are loads of apps out there for parents these days. Everything from Family Link from Google (this is the one we use and LOVE), to Our Pact, to Qustodo.
These apps not only help you control what your children see and do on their devices, but they teach children moderation with technology.
After all, technology isn’t bad but moderation is the key.