I’m sure we’ve all been guilty at one time or another of not paying attention to our kids because we are engrossed in something on our phone or tablet. I certainly have and it hit me like bus recently, when I realized that my 20 month old son was trying was trying to communicate with me and as I looked up, he had accepted that I wasn’t listening and started to move away.
I am vowing now to never do this again, every second with our children counts and I really don’t want my son or any future children to grow up thinking they are second best to technology. This made me think, I really want them to grow up knowing that technology has its place in our world but it isn’t our world. That should be the role of our families! To be a digital role model to our children.
As far as I can see, there are two main areas where they should be shown the role of technology – When to use it and How to use it.
When to Use It or Not as the case may be
It’s so easy to become addicted to our phones or other devices, always having to have them next to us, regularly checking facebook or twitter, playing games, checking emails, but really, if our kids or other halves are around, do we need to be using technology?
My son already knows how to swipe through photos or scroll on the phone and yes as he gets older I will show him how to use other things, but what he doesn’t need to know is that the best way through life is to constantly attached to your phone. So here are some of my suggestions:
- Control your browsing and game playing when around your kids, especially ensuring that what you are browsing or playing is age-appropriate for them to look over your shoulder and talk to you about. Explaining why you are playing a game where you are killing innocent people while driving around a city in a stolen car might be a bit difficult to explain to a 5 year old.
- Obviously, capturing moments using our devices is a modern way of life but do they have to be shared there and then? Because let’s face it, when we upload it to social media, we then are waiting for people to like and comment and then we feel the need to respond. Before we know it, an hour has gone past and the moment of enjoying time with our family may have gone.
- If spending time with your family, leave your devices in a bag or in another room, create a ‘Technology Free Zone’ where your kids grow up knowing that time together won’t be disrupted by you being on your devices. One example of this would be the dining table, meals should be enjoyed together and time spent talking with each other. If phones are out, it’s too easy to scroll through facebook and watch a video someone has shared and not pay attention to each other
Show them How to use it
I think the most important point when showing them how to use the digital world, is to practice what you preach. It can be easy to tell them how they should be doing something but if you then don’t follow the guidelines, it’s easy for the kids to say “well Mummy/Daddy weren’t doing it, so why do I have to?” There are a few things which you should probably do as a pre-cursor:
- When giving the kids devices out of the box, ensure you help them set it up and turn all the safety features/restrictions on. You especially don’t want them to be able to buy apps or in game purchases on your itunes account without you knowing.
- Look into Parental Controls for their devices/laptops. Windows 10 now has Family Safety as a feature which can be set up on their laptops, although it does require their account to not be the only account on the laptop, there must be a separate administrator account. There are other parental control software packages out there which cover all devices too, if you’re unsure, do some googling and look at the reviews and star ratings in the respective app stores for each device.
- Curb your photo sharing of your children, especially embarrassing photos. Our kids will be the first generation to be able to go back over our profiles in 10-15 years time and view their photos as a baby which were shared to the world. Keep their dignity in tact.
- Look into the privacy settings of your profiles and ensure you have the correct level of privacy so that only the people you want to see your updates can actually see them.
When it comes to helping your kids, ensure you are open to what they are trying to do online. If they are wanting to play a game, help them find the game they want to play, configure their profile and set the correct privacy settings for them. While doing this with them, explain the reasons why you are doing it, ensure they know you are helping to protect them from bad things happening. This doesn’t just apply to games but also to their general usage. Teach them some of the following things to be aware of:
- Only adding people they know on social media sites. There are people out there who pretend to be someone their not (an older male/female posing as an 8 year old or 15 year old) to befriend children and then attempt to arrange to meet up.
- Never give personal information such as where they live or any details about the family away online, you don’t know who is watching.
- Not to click on pop-ups that suggest you have won something. You haven’t, there’s nothing for free on the internet and if you follow the pop-up through, you will eventually end up with a large credit card bill and no prize.
- Not to share embarrassing pictures as even if you only send it to a few people, they can send it further and before you know it, the world has seen the picture.
- Not to post posed pictures of themselves online with the purpose of asking for feedback from people, this has been a major cause of cyber-bullying over the last few years and has ended in a handful of children committing suicide after they got a torrent of abuse back from the picture they posted. Ask.fm was a site which was particularly bad for this kind of thing happening.
- Whatever they post online, will stay there forever, even if it is deleted.
- Anything they post online can have an impact on their career, universities and employers are frequently looking at online profiles of all candidates and eliminating them based on what they see.
Ultimately, work with them to set up profiles, but adhere to the rules of age limits, lock their profiles down and teach them the basic awareness of how to behave sensible online. But also, ensure you have enough awareness to help deal with any issues they may be having. Youtube is a great resource for learning how to use sites or configure settings for a particular system. If they were being bullied at school, you would want to be able to talk to them and help them, so aim to be able to do the same if they are being cyber-bullied. If they have the knowledge that you can help them, they will want to talk to you.
Of course, we all want to make sure we protect our children, but locking down everything so they can’t do a thing is not the right answer, they will then do things behind your back. If you can set everything up for them so that they can safely do things without the concern of anything bad happening, then they will be more open to share their digital existence with you.