Achieving a healthy balance in the use of technology is a challenge for children and adults alike. With growing public discourse in relation to the use of technology our blog this week offers advice on practical ways to create and maintain a balance when it comes to the use of technology with a particular focus on children and teens. Realistically, technology now surrounds us all. There is even a relatively new concept known by the acronym F.O.M.O. – Fear of Missing Out, linked to the viewing and posting of content online via social media apps. Looking at this from an alternative perspective it could be said that children and teens are also missing out on a childhood free from the pressures associated with the omnipresence of technology. When we meet parents at our seminars in schools we regularly hear about the ongoing challenge parents face in trying to create a balance with the use of technology.

Here are some tips for creating a balance in the use of technology:

Talk with your child about why you want them to have a balance in relation to the amount of time they spend online. It is always a good idea to suggest that this is something for all of the family to try. Prioritising a family activity that does not involve technology each week is a great way to introduce a digital detox. Encourage your child to spend time interacting face to face with their friends as opposed to messaging them. They will get to see a real reaction to what is being talked about instead of a managed response via a screen. Learning to read body language is another crucial skill that will stay with them long into adulthood.

Talk to your child about the content that they see online. Remind them that what they are seeing is only a very small snapshot of a person’s life and it is only what the sharer chooses to show to the outside world

Part of the pressure that children can feel is that everyone else is always online, that their parents are far stricter than their friends’ parents and/or that their friends are allowed a lot more freedoms than them. As with social media itself, the reality can be very different than the perception where this is concerned; explain to your child that while they may feel that their friends have more freedom online than them, in reality that may not be the case. It is a good idea to stay linked in with other parents and discuss with them the ways they deal with peer pressure, particularly in relation to excessive internet use and social networking. Peer support can be very helpful for parents, especially when it comes to the challenges of digital parenting. Try not to confiscate digital devices. Parents can often confiscate or ban the use of digital devices as a form of punishment. This is rarely, if ever, effective and in some cases can lead to children using digital devices in other people’s homes or borrowing smartphones from friends to access the internet. It is human nature that if something is banned, it becomes more intriguing!

At Zeeko we hope to make talking about staying safe online an integral part of every Irish school and home. Reminding your child about the importance of protecting themselves when they are online is so important. If conversations are regular and open in relation to online safety this is bound to build confidence and better equip your child for challenges they may encounter in the digital world.