The challenges of parenting may feel never ending and there is now a new element to parenting and it’s digital! Everything from encouraging your kids to have a balance in their use of technology to helping them to be aware of the issues that they may face when they are online is an additional aspect to the parental skill set! Through our work with schools and our interaction with parents here’s some advice we’d like to share!
Don’t worry! It’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed: With the number of apps, social media platforms and general chat about the online world that appears to be everywhere it is natural to feel like there is a huge amount to get your head around. When we are delivering parent and teacher seminars virtually, or in person around around the country we regularly meet parents who are feeling a little swamped by the sheer number of apps that kids are using. Having basic ‘ground rules’ on the use of technology is a great starting point. For example, decide together about the amount of time that should be spent using screens each day and/or week. Working collaboratively is the best way forward.
Open Communication is the key: The most effective tool you have as a parent is communication! By having an open communication style with your children, on a range of topics including staying safe online, your kids are sure feel secure in knowing that they will be able to talk to you openly about what they are experiencing when they are online. Children can often fear the negative repercussions of being open about what they are doing when they are online. If they know that they can approach you and openly share their feelings, thoughts and experiences that is a great springboard for their future online safety.
Offer age appropriate advice: At Zeeko one of the first things we talk to primary school children about is using the Stop Block Tell Rule if they encounter something online that upsets them. Obviously this is appropriate for that age group. When communicating with teenagers, the message while similar in nature, obviously needs to be more age appropriate. Speaking to parents with children of a similar age is one good way to share experiences and learn from each other about how they deal with online safety issues with their teens.
Spend some time online: Sometimes the best way to learn about something is through experience. If you want to help your child to stay safe, spend some time online, researching some apps like Instagram and SnapChat or how to upload content to sites like YouTube. By exploring these apps yourself you will be in a stronger position when talking to your child about them. Remember not to become overwhelmed, no parent can know everything and with the amount of apps now available it would be impossible to keep up to date with all of them!
Keep it ‘Real’: Digital Parenting is a phrase that is becoming more and more common. In reality digital parenting is really no different to parenting. It is important to remember that if your child has a good grounding in making smart choices in many areas of their lives, then the choices they make in relation to staying safe online will be similar.
Encourage time spent offline: Remind your child of the importance of face to face contact with their friends and of course their family. Encourage your child to actively engage in non-sedentary activities. Time spent away from screens is undoubtedly important and can sometimes lead to your child opening up about what they are experiencing when they are online.
Remember as a parent you have a lot more knowledge and experience than you probably give yourself credit for!