Do you know where your children are Online?

Times have certainly changed.

As a young person I used to play outside, explore my neighbourhood, ride my bike and spend time with friends at local playgrounds and community centres, often without a parent. A much different picture to how many young people are spending their time now. They have mobile phones, iPads, computers and video games. In most cases they do school work, socialize and entertain themselves all through the light of a blue screen.

Are they really safe?

While it’s almost unheard of these days to allow children to go anywhere they like, the majority of parents are letting them go anywhere they please in the online world – unsupervised and uncensored. Some parents believe if they are using technology at least they are at home and they know where they are. But do you really know where they are, who they are speaking to, who they are spending time with online and what they are watching? As parents we need to familiarize ourselves with where our kids are going online and with whom. Social media can be lots of fun but it can also be dangerous if your child doesn’t know how to use it safely and if you don’t know who they are connecting with.

Learning to navigate the online world

I was watching a documentary about a social media app called kik. This app, in particular, gives children a false sense of security – believing everyone is genuine and has their best interests in mind. We lock down schools when we suspect there is a predator nearby. Unfortunately we forget that this danger exists more on a computer and a phone. You can, however, implement responsible use policies and apply safety controls over where they are roaming.

Since technology is a dominant force in most young people’s lives, it’s important to make sure they learn to navigate this digital environment responsibly and understand the impact that technology has on their life.

Here are 4 tips to help you do that:

 1. Help them see the benefits of less technology 

Spending less time in front of a screen can help them be more successful at school and with their relationships. Implementing guidelines around screen time creates a happier, healthier and more balanced child which allows them more time to achieve their dreams and aspirations.

The benefits of less technology

Even as an adult, I have to remind myself to limit my use of my phone. Checking for text messages and emails can become very addictive.

2. Advise them on the risks

Over usage of electronics can result in depression, anxiety, anger and poor choice making. One suggestion to possibly override these symptoms is an electronic fast to allow the nervous system to reset.

They need to know that what people post online isn’t the whole picture. While others’ lives might look perfect, they can be made to look glorious. They also need to understand that what is posted online is forever and what is cool or funny right now, may have negative implications in their future.

3. Set rules for the whole family to follow

Part of good boundary setting is leading by example and being consistent with your own use of technology. Everyone in the household should follow the same rules which include:

  • Amount of use that is acceptable.
  • Times when electronics can and can’t be used.
  • Which programs and apps can be accessed or installed on computers and devices.
  • Safety and security guidelines.
  • Behaviour that are and are not appropriate when interacting with others through computers and devices.
  • Create open dialogue about what’s happening online.

Family sitting on the couch looking at laptop together

 4. Keep technology out of the bedroom

Removing mobile devices and other electronic devices from the bedrooms, ensures that your restrictions on tech use are followed. You’ll also find that everyone sleeps better, waking up well rested, more positive and better equipped to concentrate throughout their day. Having it in the bedroom is too tempting to check one last message.

Through my use of social media I see too many kids who have been online well after midnight when parents may think they are asleep. The time of their posts show otherwise.

Without rules and regulations for digital and online use, young people are left to make their own choices and they might not be ones that boost their self worth or ensure that they are guided to becoming successful, resilient and confident children and adults.

After a recent UPower presentation a grade 11 student shared that she decided to delete her social media accounts because she realized she was basing her self-worth on the number of likes and comments she received on her posts. After only one week of being offline she said she noticed a major increase in her confidence because she was no longer basing her worth on social media.

Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear the strategies that you are using to help regulate your children’s use of technology.

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