It should surprise nobody that this current generation of young people has been termed iGen! This will include your children born between 1995 and 2012. They are the generation born into a smart world with no pre-internet memories. They are the most digitally connected and aware. You can spot them because they are smartphone natives, always online, socialise through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and a whole host of other online platforms. They are also a generation that is more socially connected yet they struggle with real time friendships. They are a generation that despite online confidence and optimism, are vulnerable and anxious. As parents, we have all experienced the aftermath of online fall outs!
So how can we best parent in this digital age to minimise the negative impact of screen time whilst supporting the benefits of the digital age?
- Delay social media as long as possible! Even the word social media is a paradox really because online lives are often anything but real. The anxiety around how many likes or streaks they achieve is real. The temptation to post inappropriate pictures or view them is also real. Our home rule was that I could access their online accounts at any time. If they have things I should not see then they probably shouldn’t have them at all! I joined Facebook the day they did! Encourage them to navigate friendship issues in real life not online where miscommunication happens frequently!
- Delay smart phones as long as possible. As soon as a child has a phone that connects to the internet parental control is virtually futile. Dangerous and inappropriate content is a tap away. Make sure that as you give your child freedoms they realise the responsibility and the risk. Discuss how your child will create boundaries to use the phone safely. Consider writing a smart phone contract of expected behaviours/curfews etc.
- Take control of your home! As my children grew up it was accepted that no one had a computer or phone in their room. We started that way and it stayed that way, which is easier than creating boundaries later. Decide upon your home boundaries which could include: All phones charged overnight in the parent’s bedroom; no phones at the dinner table; no devices after bedtime; consider shutting down the WiFi once you are in bed. This protects sleep patterns which are an increasing problem with teens who spend time watching movies and chatting into the early hours with their friends. Who remembers the days when it was enough to see your friends for six hours a day at school?!
- Stairstep the technology – decide ahead of time how to release each stage of technology as your child grows older. This way they can see you are not anti-technology but will give them the privilege when they demonstrate the responsibility.
- Redeem your family time – create positive family relationships where you can interact with real people in real time. Go to the beach, climb a mountain, organise a craft day and hang out as a family. Take the family camping phone free (you will have to model this too!) and see what fun you can have without the lure and pressure of seeing who has posted what.
Be prepared for some fall out from your children/teens as they buck against your boundaries but be encouraged to stand firm and know that you are creating a resilient generation who can navigate technology wisely and safely. My own four children are young adults now and have since thanked me for being strict on their technology use!
So, this is me logging off!
Bless you heaps.