Kids are spending over 2 hours per day on mobile devices and, according to the CNN Special Report #being13, some are checking their newsfeeds up to 100 times per day. Parenting is becoming increasingly tough and resources can be overwhelming.
In this blog, I hope to make parenting just slightly simpler with 4 basic tips and quick access to resources that can help along the way.
#1 Be Smarter Than They Are
In order to combat our kids’ digital savvy, we need to learn tips and tricks of our own. By gathering tools and resources, we can take the first step to actively managing the digital devices in our homes.
5. Stay on top of all of the latest social sites by seeking out blogs (for example, Social Networking Sites You Need to Know About in 2017) or following bloggers like the Cyber Safety Guru.
#2 Be Diligent
Now that you have resources, parenting is all about diligence and follow-through. As they say, half the battle is just showing up! Obviously you’ll want to watch over your kids online, just as you would in the “real” world, but the dangers are a bit different – making it even more important to be diligent.
1. Make sure your kids’ social media accounts are set to “Private” and carefully consider allowing your child access to any site that that doesn’t offer a closed environment. MacWorld put out a great article that can help you Protect your privacy: take control of social networking.
3. Watch over your kids’ accounts for common mistakes. Most children won’t think twice about including their name as part of a username, or sharing their birthdate or email address. And, often kids share their school or team affiliations in their public facing profile information. All of this information leaves your child vulnerable to predators.
4. Use cloud-sharing tools to instantly see the photos your child is taking. Through Family Sharing, you can stream photos to be viewed from any device. This allows parents to quickly see when a child has taken a photo that may be inappropriate and intervene.
5. Set alert features in your parental controls. Many of the tools referenced above allow you to set email and text alerts and updates. You can’t know what’s going on 24/7- no parent can! So, use these alerts and updates to make your life a bit easier.
#3 Open the Lines of Communication
No matter what parental controls and tools you choose, don’t keep them a secret. Be open and honest with your kids. Share your concerns with them and work as a team.
1. Explain the dangers and collaborate on solutions.
When kids are aware of the dangers that are out there, and how their information could be misused, they are more likely to monitor their own behavior and take responsibility. Bring your kids in on the conversation, and they may just be more likely to bring you in when there is actual trouble.
2. Write a contract to set clear expectations and partner with your kids.
Giving a child a mobile device is a sign of maturity. Honor that milestone by partnering with your child to write up a contract. Outline what you both expect as far as access, behavior, limits and procedures; detail the tools and parental control resources that will be used to monitor those any limits; and then discuss natural consequences if any part of the agreement is broken. When expectations are set up front, and everyone knows the terms – cut and dry - the “consequences” for mistakes become less personal and more “matter of fact.”
3. Hold your children accountable without shame around mistakes.
Technology is a privilege, not a right, so don’t forget to follow through. Once your contract is written, the consequences should be clear, straightforward, and non-emotional. There is no shame in making a mistake – the device is simply tied to terms that have been broken, so there is a natural consequence. You’ve both signed an agreement and, in the “real world,” terms are tied to responsibilities.
#4 Don’t Pile On
While it’s hard to parent in a Mobile age, remember that it’s also extremely hard to be a kid. Try not to pile on to the stress and anxiety that kids feel around this topic.
Kids Health.org recently cited a study of the effects of social media on kids, stating that “17% of teens say they've been contacted online by someone they didn't know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable (and) 30% of teens say they’ve received online advertising that was inappropriate for their age.”
The CNN Special Report #being13 found an eye-open level of insecurity among teens, with children reporting a high level of dependence on social media to monitor their image, or even worse, create their self-image. “61% wanted to see how many likes and comments were on their latest post. 36% check if their friends are doing things without them (and) 21% monitor if other people are saying anything about them online.”
Our children are in over their heads. And, as parents, the last thing we want to do is alienate them even more. We have a unique opportunity to help them through this in a way that will build bridges, versus barriers:
1. Stay in tune to your kids. Kids emotions and reactions may be tied to digital and social interaction so stay “tuned in” to stay in tune.
2. Listen more than you talk. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up just by being present and listening to your kids.
3. Refrain from judgment. No matter what happens, your kids need to know that you are on their side and available to help.
4. Guide them to act, versus taking action on their behalf. When you notice a situation that’s crossing the line - give your kids the tools, and space, to handle it themselves when possible (with your support of course), rather than intervening for them.
5. And, listen… again. This one is worth repeating. If you’re there to listen… maybe your kids will even come to talk.
With the right tools, I’m hoping that we can keep our kids safe; maintain their self esteem; and maybe even prove that a positive, personal interaction with us can be more powerful than a negative, in-personal one on their device.
God, as we aim to parent our children faithfully and in Your way, we ask for your strength, endurance, and peace. Let us learn from You, our own loving and wise parent.
Special thanks to our guest blogger, Julie Herbster Leighton. Julie leads the Children's Church program at Saint Luke.