As the weather gets cooler, children and teens tend to spend more time inside, and that often results in time glued to a computer, iPad, and other tech devices.
A 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that youth ages 8 to 18 devote 7.5 hours a day to entertainment media. Less than half of the kids surveyed said their parents have rules about the shows and games they can watch or play.
Drew Read, director of the Paul Anderson Youth Home, offers the following advice on how parents can help their children understand and respect a healthy appreciation of electronics:
- Turn off the computer at night for at least one hour, and make sure all technology (including iPads and iPhones) is put away for at least one hour every night.
- Recognize that people often use technology to fill a relational void. The virtual world is appealing due to its unlimited capacity for friendship, attention, and a feeling of personal significance. It is a parent’s job to provide children with enough love and support that they do not go seeking those things elsewhere. Parents should try to schedule time each day to interact with their children–over a family dinner, a family game night, an evening walk, or any activity that provides an opportunity for interaction and two-way communication.
- As new sites are created, anticipate that they will gravitate towards the risqué and lewd.
- Be aware that early-formed computer habits often become behaviors that challenge parents as children grow older. Parents need to be aware and notice if children begin developing new behaviors, like becoming irrationally upset when they are not allowed on the computer. A good way to assess such behaviors is to limit computer and tablet usage to a central location where children feel a sense of supervision. If your child has a problem with this rule, it might be a sign that he or she is engaging in online activities that you might not allow.
- Install web filtering/tracking services on each computer.
- Learn how to interact online and use technology as another way to communicate with your child. A lot of parents do not realize that technology is actually one of the easiest ways to communicate with their children, and it will make them seem more relevant in the eyes of their kids. Fighting technology is a losing battle. We will never again live in a technology-free world, so it is important to adapt and learn the technology that your children are using. After all, how can you expect to monitor something you do not understand?
- Set boundaries and enforce those standards by monitoring what your children are doing. Set time limits on technology use and stick to them. You do not have to hover over your children’s shoulders every time they use technology, but make sure to instill a sense of supervision.
- Make sure you know all of your children’s passwords, and do not allow them to share these passwords with friends.
- Check up on their online history and communication. If history and/or cookies are deleted, then discover why. This is a great way to establish a transparent relationship with your children, which is more important now than ever due to the innumerable risks of today’s world.
- Inform your children about real examples of predators on the web.
Be wise about what your children may think constitutes “their privacy and your responsibility as a parent to protect, nurture, admonish, and guide them. You are not protecting them by not checking up on them. Every parent believes that their child would not do these things, yet the vast percentage of teenagers is interacting socially and virtually in ways that their parents are unaware of.
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