For children in school, using the Internet is a simple fact of life. It is nearly impossible to manage the workload of education without utilizing the Internet as a basic tool. However, the Internet also opens up children to a massive amount of potentially harmful or explicit content, as well as possibly exposing personal information or devices to malicious parties. How do you balance the need to use the Internet for school with the parental duty of keeping your children and your household safe? Here are seven essential tips that can help you out in this important yet difficult, task.
Realistic Limits on Screen Time
With the onset of COVID-19 and school closures in 2020, kids are not only using screens for education but are spending a large portion of their social activities online as well, and that’s okay. What is not okay, and potentially harmful, is an unlimited amount of screen time with no supervision or restrictions. Setting limits on your children’s screen time to include sufficient time for school and social activities with friends is a delicate balance and isn’t going to be the same for everyone. You will want to begin with a baseline assessment of how they are using their screen time currently and set goals based on that. Involve them in the process, explain the reasoning, and help them take ownership of this policy.
Communicate the Problems With Screen Time
At the outset, your child may see the desire to limit screen time as something to exercise control over them or to take away something they enjoy doing. Something that can really change this perception is understanding and communicating the reason why limiting screen time is so important. Numerous studies have shown a link, particularly with teenagers, between excessive screen time use and several mental health issues, including negative self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Trying to explain that this limit is something designed to help your child be their best self and not a nonsensical parental limit may help with success.
Hand Over the Reins of Internet Security
It’s not only important for you to understand how to be safe online, but these are things that you need to try to teach your children as well. You will never be able to fully supervise what they do online, so teaching them to be safe is an important part of their Internet independence.
Web Filters Can Do a Lot of the Heavy Lifting
The Internet is way too vast for a parent to truly have a handle on all of the content out there. Thankfully, a good internet filter does a great job of blocking access to negative content, malicious parties, and online predators from reaching your children. These devices should be used to minimize risk with the understanding that even the best filters won’t catch everything. Make sure that once your internet filter is installed you continue to check what your children are doing online and who they are communicating with.
Loosen Up Over Time
As any parent knows, building trust both ways between a parent and child is a difficult but worthy endeavor. Approaching the Internet is another avenue where this is an important skill that parents today need to develop. Communicate openly and encourage them to ask questions or share concerns about content they find on the Internet without becoming overly strict. This will build trust both ways and allow you to let your children have increasing privacy and independence.
Don’t Necessarily Do It Alone
Every parent needs help sometimes. This is a basic fact of parenting, and Internet security is no different. If you feel your children are battling emotional issues that are either caused by excessive screen time or where screen time is an unhealthy coping mechanism, it is always encouraged to seek help if needed. A professional counselor may be a good resource to help you determine the root of the issue and set a plan for remedying the problem.
Always Encourage Non-Screen Activities
While the Internet is now a basic fact of modern life, it doesn’t have to be the only source of entertainment and socializing for your children, nor should it be. Work with your child to come up with activities they can do that don’t involve screens that will help them to develop new skills, talents, or purely for fun. Also, as with anything, your child will look to you (whether they admit it or not!) as an example, so make sure you also examine your own screen time and model an appropriate balance for them as well.
Keeping these tips in mind can help you and your children have both a safe and productive relationship with the Internet and strike a balance between screen and non-screen time. Contact us to learn more!