Are you reading this blog from your phone, laptop or tablet? We appreciate you taking some time out of your day!
Let’s get a little bit nostalgic and do you remember in elementary/high school when you had a project due and needed to use the library to find out all your information? You’d head to the Card Catalogue and use the Dewey Decimal System and look for books to find all the information you needed. And sometimes, the book was already checked out which made life even harder. Now, we live in the digital world and things have never been the same since the introduction of smartphones, TVs, tablets, Google Home. We could go on, but you probably get the drift because well, it’s a lot! Technology has helped make our lives easier in so many ways and parenting is no exception. See a rash? Google it on your tablet. Need a field trip location? Google on your phone. Set reminders for tasks? “Hey Alexa, set a timer”. Finding information and gaining access is faster and easier than ever. It is a fantastic resource to learn more about parenting (like this blog!) However, it has also made parenting more challenging because it also creates an open window to information overload, typical dangers and access to unmonitored content.
As we navigate our way through the technology parenting world, we must understand the crucial role of modelling.
We must model positive online behaviours for our kids to do the same. When the pandemic hit and moved to online learning, worry and panic about education increased. Most parents think that kids are spending way too much time staring at the screen and as we struggle to connect with our friends and loved ones, imagine what your child is feeling. If your kids are 8 years old or up, they need that social connection. As the parent and the adult, you take the responsibility to initiate, plan and engage in family playtime. Put that phone down or ask your kids to wait. If you ask your kids to wait, then you must be okay to do the same when you ask for their attention. Once you’re both ready to engage, it should follow the basic rule of “Toes follow the Nose” where this body language communicates full attention. Face-to-face interactions are incredibly important, so try not to text your kids while you are in the same house. If you set the precedent of sending a text to their phone, they will see the ease in this type of communication and then it becomes normalized.
Technology use for children and youth is a fine balance between not restricting to activate counterwill and not creating resistance in their personalities so that they crave the access when it is restricted.
Setting a technology schedule with your kids means that it has to be age appropriate and reasonable. There must be boundaries and limits that everyone should be following but allowing room for flexibility and negotiation. For instance, if it is unacceptable for your kids to have their phones at the dinner table, then you need to follow that rule too. If the exception needs to be made, it means that the person completes their business and then shows up to the dinner table, sans phone. It also would mean that they may miss out on that family and that their dinner will be put in the fridge for when they are ready to eat. This is the agreement that everyone must be aware of before these accommodations are put into place. These are “one-time accommodations” and not “all the time accommodations”. Setting the message each time with “this is your once-a-month accommodation” signifies to the youth that it is an exception to the rule that will not get broken again. This is where follow-through must happen for parents. Keeping track of these accommodations is necessary - or your child will learn that your boundaries can be pushed farther than you recognize.
It can be challenging to know what your kids are doing online or if they know enough about internet privacy to be online safely.
Knowing your child’s online life as much as you can is a lot of work, but valuable. You know (hopefully) who your kids’ friends are in real life and what your kids like to do, try to do the same online. It creates an open and loving space for such conversations to occur. Do not make your kids afraid of talking to you about their concerns, allow them to ask questions, raise curiosity and make mistakes. Do screen time together! Like how you would do reading time together with your kids (if you are not, you should) do screen time together! Movie night, show night, video game night! Try to understand when your kids are explaining to you what the latest trend is on Instagram or Tik Tok. This is how you stay on top of the online world for the safety of your kids. Be curious, “tell me more about the trend or the app, I want to know more!” Do not be dismissive and say “ah I don’t get it, I don’t care about it! That sounds like you could end up doing something like that. I don't like that.” You shut the conversation down and decrease the chances of your kids coming to you to talk about it in the future.
A significant component of technology parenting is how to live in the present moment without distractions.
Our lives are busy and hectic, and this was before the pandemic hit. Technology, although helpful, can distract us from living in the present because it pulls into the future, the past or towards others.
Reading time without technology around.
Family game night. Camping outside! Picnic time!
A walk without phones!
Resist the urge to take your phone out even for a picture, enjoy the moment! When you see beautiful scenery, you want to take your phone out and document it, but then you look at all the notifications on the screen … whether you want to admit it or not, you will check your messages and your email notifications!
Teach your kids manners and respect online the same way you will be offline. Have a conversation with your kids about how to behave online.
What they say can and will have consequences that could last a lifetime. This sounds scary but it is true. We must communicate this serious consequence with our kids but not in a threatening way. Install respect and empathy in your kids. They should understand they must act in ways that they would want others to post or say about them. Help them understand what respectful behaviours look like online, what is cyberbullying is and how to not engage in that type of behaviour.
Teach them safety!
Online predators exist, teach your kids what to do when people approach them with inappropriate content or requests. This is why that loving and open communication between you and your kids is so important. Foster that environment where your kids feel comfortable coming to you when they feel unsafe. This is not the time for them to learn “independence.”
It can be scary to have your kids online. However, technology is not going anywhere. Instead of avoiding technology in our parenting, we need to take a proactive approach and educate about safe use.
A fantastic resource is Common Sense Media. It has amazing information such as reviews of movies, shows, video games, apps that you can read before your kids use them. It also has a lot of resources on how to navigate online parenting such as “how to keep up with the latest social app my teen is using?” or “what are the basic social media rules for elementary school-aged kids?” The website has different sections for different ages as well.
Happy Parenting - JC