The summer holidays are just around the corner for children in primary school and are already in full swing for those at second level. The summer is traditionally a time when the strict routines in place during the academic year are relaxed. It is a time for families to spend some quality time together, be that in Ireland or abroad. Many families may have pretty robust ways of managing technology and time spent online for the vast majority of the time, but over the summer these ‘rules’ may understandably be relaxed. How can you ensure that your child stays safe online over the summer and enjoys a healthy balance between time spent online and time spent offline?
Children can often assume that because they are not in school over the summer that they can automatically spend an inordinate amount of time gaming online, messaging their friends or exploring apps. It is important that they understand, pretty early on in the summer holidays that this is not a good idea! Talk to your child about the importance of having a balance between the time they spend online and the time spent offline. It’s an invaluable lesson that variety really is the spice of life! Having a range of activities arranged that don’t involve time spent in front of a screen is a great idea. There is no doubt that there will be some time spent online each day as a complete ban is usually counterproductive and can lead to ‘underground’ use of the internet. For example, visiting friends houses and spending time online there because they are not being allowed to do so at home. Encourage your child to see the summer as an opportunity to spend some time away from screens and to spend time face to face with their friends rather than communicating with them online.
If you plan to spend some time abroad over the summer remember to check the safety settings are in place on any device that you bring with you. This is particularly important if your children are going to spend some time using a device that they do not normally have access to at home. Also remind your kids that they should exercise the same amount of caution if they are online, when abroad as they do when they are at home. The summer can also be a good time to review the internet use of the family over the previous year. If you have particular routines in place, talk as a family about how well they have worked, could they be improved? Do you need to update what you have in place around internet use to make it more age appropriate? The summer can be a great time to update your family ‘Digital Contract’ or consider creating one if you do not have one in place.
Technology and the digital world never take a holiday! However, children of all ages and indeed adults, do need a break from the online world. It is how this is managed that matters. Take some time out and remember to remind your child of the importance of making smart choices to help them stay safe when they are online.