Parenting is hard. Parenting in an age of social media, instant access, and constantly changing technology is even harder.
Common Sense Media recently reported children ages eight and under spend an average of two and a quarter hours a day using screens (TVs, DVDs, mobile devices, computers, video game players, etc).
These five tips are an attempt to help you navigate the digital world with your child.
Tip #1: Educate Yourself
Know what sites, apps, and games your children are using. If you do not know what something is, do an internet search to find out. Once you learn more about the purpose of the tool, explore it for yourself. If you discover the tool is beneficial and inline with the values of your family, create an account and join your child online. If it is not, skip to Tip #5.
Tip #2: Set Ground Rules
Set time and place limits for device use. Shared spaces, like the living room, make it easier to keep on eye on your child’s online behavior. Set up nighttime technology routines. Another routine to consider is creating a device “parking lot” where all devices get turned into a specific location, away from bedrooms, where they are left to charge overnight.
Tip #3: Friend/Follow your Child on Social Media
To open a social media account on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, or Kik users must be at least 13-years-old. While 13 seems to be the required age for most social media use, 25 percent of Facebook users are actually under the age of 10. If you decide it is time for your child to have a social media account, friend and follow your child online. Respect your child’s online space, just as you would respect their space offline.
Tip #4: Be a Good Digital Role Model
As parents, we know our actions go a lot further than our words. The same holds true for our digital habits. Curb your own bad digital behaviors and set aside tech-free family time. Challenge yourself to put your device down while watching your child at soccer practice or supervising a play date at the park.
Tip #5: Embrace the Teachable Moments
Start early by creating an atmosphere of open communication with your child. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, 70 percent of teens hide their online activity from their parents. Children will sometimes create fake online profiles, delete their browsing history, close out of windows or apps at a moment’s notice, or turn down their screen brightness to hide inappropriate online behavior. By using digital mishaps as “teachable moments,” parents have the opportunity to help their child navigate the online waters.