Being a parent can be challenging. There are challenges we face on a daily basis, and the list of challenges never ends. It only gets updated every once in a while. Together with all the important aspects of parenting, one of the main goals of every parent in the world is to keep their children safe, mentally and physically. But keeping an eye on our children in the digital era may seem like an overwhelming and intimidating experience. Not because we’re lazy or incapable of doing it. It’s because it’s harder than ever before.
Unless you choose a lifestyle that’s been perfectly pictured in the movie “Captain Fantastic”, where you would isolate your kids and make a completely self-sustainable home deep in the wilderness of the woods, with no electricity, internet or smart devices, you will certainly face one of the many modern problems and try to question and analyze all the methods for preventing your children from bullying, spending too much time online or getting physically attacked.
In a hectic environment where things are moving too fast and change from one minute to another, it can be hard to track your child’s behavior, needs and habits. Some of their habits can lead them into dangerous situations and they can unintentionally and unconsciously become a victim of a predator or the technology itself.
What’s there to be done? As soon as they get old enough to hold a phone or a tablet, they indulge in the world of the unknown, where colorful and flashy pictures, engaging music and sounds and never ending sources of content completely grab their attention, releasing their dopamine levels in a way that’s hard to compete with.
In the constant battle for their time and safety, there are tips that may be helpful if you lack ideas and strategies for keeping your children safe.
What should you do? And more importantly, what can you do? If you want to find moderate solutions that will fit your needs, without being too radical when it comes to your lifestyle, here’s our list of tips and tricks for every parent who needs extra information about technological and practical tips you can apply to your daily life:
1. COMMUNICATE AND PARTICIPATE
Everyone will tell you that communication is key. However, you probably won’t get answers on what that means in reality. We all know we should communicate with our children in order to maintain a valuable relationship that will be beneficial for both sides. But the ugly truth is that children usually learn by example. If you don’t invest your time and energy into face-to-face communication, they’ll probably turn to other sources of interaction, such as digital ones. The importance of engaging in deep conversations about various topics can’t be emphasized enough. There shouldn’t be any taboo topics and you should allow them to express their opinions and feelings on any given topic. Not only does dialogue increase their language and communication skills, it also creates a great distinction between what’s real and what isn’t. This is crucial for valuing human, live interactions more than cold interactions with a screen. Digital media should be one of the many topics to discuss, where you should educate them on both positive and negative aspects of their usage, teach them about their privacy, how to save their personal information and what they should beware of. This should be an ongoing process and it’s never too early to start communicating, if you haven’t already.
2. RESTRICT THE CONTENT THEY HAVE ACCESS TO
Don’t be afraid to use all the possible resources to restrict your children’s time online. But, it’s not only the number of hours they spend on digital media, it’s also about the content they have access to. At their young age, they still don’t have a clear understanding of what’s right or wrong and especially, what’s safe for them and what’s dangerous. That’s why you need to shape their online experience by preventing them from accessing the dangerous, malicious information. Spend some time researching the strategies and think about the websites you wouldn’t want your children to visit. After you make a list, don’t be afraid to block certain websites you don’t find appropriate for their age, and make sure to encourage them to visit the websites you find interesting, educational or good for their well-being. You can easily restrict the content by turning on Google SafeSearch and applying some of the numerous parental control apps on the market such as Kaspersky Safe Kids, Net Nanny or Screen Time.
3. MONITOR BUT DON’T PRESSURE
Monitoring is not the same as pressuring. It’s important to make a difference between those two, because you will shape your approach accordingly. Taking advantage of all the possible parental controls is one of the ways to do it. Installing some of them will allow you to silently and secretly monitor their emails, chats and social media in order to save them from adult content, predators, dangerous games online etc. But this doesn’t mean that you should only create a safe digital environment for your children. You also need to be careful with their live human interactions, places they visit and their real life experiences. The need for this multiplies if your child has autism or any other special needs, therefore keeping them safe is your biggest concern. In this case, you can go for certain tracking products such as GPS trackers for kids, that will allow you to silently monitor your children’s day and the way they are being treated, as well as how they handle the new environments and who they spend their time with. This is utterly important, since the percentage of bullying in schools has increased over the years. Read more about the plethora of tracking capabilities and techniques for your kids’ safety.
4. INCLUDE HEALTHY ACTIVITIES
It’s not just about the restrictions and communication. Since children mostly learn by example, it’s important to provide them with a variety of activities they can enjoy and find fulfilling. Being a good role model doesn’t mean not spending too much time on your phone when you’re around them. It also means teaching them the art of reading a book, taking them on hikes and watching the sunsets together. You can start by setting up technology free zones where you would focus on creating rather than passive consumption of given content. Share activities, draw and paint together, try to write poems, exercise and dance with your children. You can even use digital media together, in a fun and engaging way. Play interactive games, listen to informative podcasts or practice logical thinking. The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to get creative.
What’s the first thing you need to do? You need to have a positive mindset. Don’t try to exclude digital media from your or your kids’ life. Quite the opposite, restrict what’s bad for them and involve in what you find important and useful. This way, you’ll teach them how to act online, and you’ll also teach them how to make good decisions in the future.