We may think of our kids’ online, mobile, and technological activities as “digital life,” but to them it is just life. In their world, being able to connect and communicate 24/7 from just about any location is normal – and expected!
Between kindergarten and fifth grade, kids go through rapid growth in learning about many topics, including digital media technologies. From playing games on their mom or dad’s cell phone, to learning how to point and click a mouse, to navigating online by themselves, kids today are participating in a connected culture.
What Steps To Take
The more you know about the online world and how it works the easier it will be to talk with your kids. And that is the best way to keep them safe. The first thing is join their digital world. Power up your smartphone and learn to text, tweet, snap, send a photo, upload a video. And who better to be your online guide than your kids themselves. Have them teach you or help you.
Talk with your kids. Ask them where they go online and why they like to go to those sites or apps. Let them show you the programs they use. Encourage them to come to you if they’ve seen something that confuses them or makes them uncomfortable. Because the most effective tool you have in dealing with your kids is conversation. It is good to create an environment in which your kids feel safe discussing anything with you. It’s important to really listen to them. Let them know you’re not judging them…that you just want to help. Try not to make them feel ashamed or bad about getting into something they shouldn’t have.
Young children need to learn early how to make good choices so they can take advantage of the powerful technologies available to them. And to make these good choices, kids need parental guidance.
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash
The stakes are high because our kids’ technological abilities can be greater than their maturity and judgment. Having unrestricted access to information and people can result in gaining a wealth of information and experiences. But it can also mean accessing inappropriate content and making inappropriate contact with others. The difference between a great experience and an iffy one lies in the decisions kids make. Just as kids learn to eat properly, swim safely, or drive a car carefully, they need to know how to live in the digital world responsibly and respectfully. Their ultimate success depends on their abilities to use digital media to create, collaborate, and communicate well with others. Those who master these skills in using digital tools will benefit from the digital world’s awesome power.
Teach your child to bookmark his or her favorite sites. This way, your child is less likely to go somewhere online you don’t want. Also, use the safe search options on Web browsers to make sure your child can search safely.
Have Older Siblings Help
Have your older children help teach your younger children how to be responsible and safe online. Let the older ones know that you want them to help you protect their little brothers or sisters online.
Pass Along Your Values
Kids often don’t understand the implications of their actions. But we do. So remember to extend your basic parenting wisdom to the digital world. You teach kids to choose their words carefully, to play nicely with others, and to respect their teachers. Now extend those lessons to Cyberspace.
Translate your values into the digital world and help kids understand the implications of their actions. Oftentimes the same rules that apply in the real word apply online, such as “be nice to others,” “don’t say mean things,” and “think critically about information.”
A Family Plan
Consider making a family plan for how you will use digital technology as a family.
I’m not talking about your mobile carrier contract. Rather, work together as a family to create a plan for how your family will connect with the digital world. This way, together, the entire family (including the adults) becomes empowered to be accountable to one another regarding the way they use digital media. Having a plan also makes it much easier to make healthy media choices.
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash