Best Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age
As parents, we’re constantly struggling to find a good balance between being our children’s friend and being their parent. Perhaps the hardest part of the process is to know when to be lenient and when to put your foot down, but this is crucial for building a healthy parent-child relationship. This can prove to be quite difficult since one big struggle in the modern parenting era is regulating our kid’s use of technology, which is relatively uncharted territory.
When we were growing up, the digital world was either just getting started, and for some of us older parents, it might not have existed at all. We weren’t nearly as connected to the rest of the world as our kids are now. As grownups, we don’t have the luxury of looking back at how our parents handled parenting in the digital age since it was virtually non-existent when we were kids.
The truth is that just like any other parenting situation, there isn’t one right way of doing it. The way your household handles parenting in a digital world will ultimately come down to your family’s individual needs. But, to help you brainstorm potential solutions below we’ll provide our best digital parenting tips, which we recommend that you review in order to choose the ones that will work best for you and your family.
Strengthen the Bond
Many children spend countless hours on their mobile devices, chatting with friends, playing games or just exploring the internet, but often times, they do this because it’s the only thing available to them.
Kids who feel well-loved, who feel liked and who receive plenty of attention on a regular basis by parents who seek their company are much more willing to unplug, so be sure that you’re sending the right signals to your kids if you really do want to spend time with them.
Whether you bake a savory dessert together or challenge your child to a game of UNO, always make time for real-world activities with your kids—no matter how busy your life might be. This way, they’ll be more willing to cooperate when it’s time to unplug.
Don’t Dread Being “The Bad Guy”
Parents shouldn’t be fearful of their children. Yes, your kids might throw a fit if you tell them that they can’t be on the computer for 5 hours straight, but children also respect and are comforted by parents who are willing to hold their ground.
It’s perfectly fine if they think you’re the meanest mom or dad ever, for now. Come to peace with the fact that your children won’t always be happy with your decisions, acknowledge their frustration and be kind, but don’t be afraid to impose limits.
Also, keep in mind that over the long-run, they’ll probably end up appreciating that you didn’t let them do whatever they wanted while they were young.
Lead by Example
It’s all well and good to suggest that your children go outside and play, but if you interrupt conversations with your children when you receive a text, or if you spend 6 hours every day in front of your computer, then your kids aren’t going to take you very seriously when you display the very behavior you are trying to limit.
If you need to be on your computer for work reasons, that’s one thing, but don’t let them find you cruising Facebook or browsing on Amazon when you’re supposed to be getting things done. If there is one thing kids can’t stand, it’s “Do as I say, not as I do”, so don’t fall into this trap!
Pick up a book, take a walk, or go for a bike ride with and without your kids. When your kids see that you’re having fun that doesn’t require a gadget or device, they’ll be more inclined to do the same.
Screen Time Doesn’t Have to be Alone Time
One way to encourage social interactions, bonding, and learning is to co-view, co-play, and co-engage with your children when they are using their devices.
Demonstrate good sportsmanship by playing a video game with your kids, letting them win every once in a while, and making sure to model a positive attitude no matter what’s happening on the screen.
Watch a show with them as a way to introduce and share your own perspectives and life experiences. Avoid only monitoring them online and try to interact with them so you can understand what they’re doing and become a part of it.
Create Tech-Free Zones
Keep your children’s bedroom, family and social gatherings, and family meals technology-free.
Recharge your children’s devices at night and outside of their bedroom to remove the temptation of using them just before or after bedtime.
If a TV isn’t being watched, turn it off because the background noise can interfere with face time with the kids.
Making these changes will encourage better sleep, healthier eating habits, and more high-quality, family time.
Educate Your Children about the Dangers of Online Predators and the Importance of Privacy
Children and teens must know that once content is put online, they may never be able to delete it completely.
They also need to be taught that any shared inappropriate content could harm future job opportunities, so don’t neglect to explain the long-term repercussions of using the internet in an inappropriate way.
Make sure that your kids are warned that sex offenders can be lurking in chat rooms, email, social networks, or online communities, and clearly explain to them that they should never trust online strangers—especially with personal info.
For more tips on how to teach your kids how to behave online, check out our blog post on cyber ethics by clicking here.
Try Not to Overdo It
Ideally, we should all aim to raise children who can regulate themselves, instead of always looking over their shoulders for approval, but this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
By teaching them over time how to regulate themselves, it will pave the way for them to become responsible, self-reliant adults in the future.
Instead of allotting a fixed number of hours for screen time, a better approach might be asking how we can help our kids learn to responsibly manage their time. Modeling behavior for our kids is one effective way of doing this.
As we mentioned above, if we want our kids to learn healthy habits such as turning off devices at key moments (such as a family dinner), then it’s important that everyone else does so as well, and that you engage everyone in the conversation about the topics they care about.
If we want our kids to become young adults who can give their full attention to others, then we need to show them how to do that by listening to them and maybe even asking them to let us into their world to show us their favorite interests.
If we want to model the importance of outdoor activities, we must find the time to play with them outside. So, the next time you brainstorm how you’re going to tackle the challenges of parenting in a digital age, try not to think only about which limits you can impose or how you can monitor their every move. Instead, work to strengthen your child’s ability to self-regulate.
Tools For Monitoring Your Kid’s Activity Online
To be fair, there are many instances where monitoring your children’s online activity is perfectly okay and where you, as a parent, must decide if that’s something that’s necessary for your situation.
A common approach to monitoring your child’s activities online is to have random spot checks where, at any point without warning, you take their phone or device away and go through everything.
Keep in mind though that this can feel extremely intrusive, and that it may be better to approach this process with a subtler form of watching what they’re doing via monitoring software.
If you’d rather take the monitoring via software approach, here are a few good recommendations:
• Net Nanny – Good for integrating your kid’s AppleID with your computer and monitoring their activity on the internet
• Teen Safe – Good for monitoring your child’s text, mobile location, web history, and even retrieving deleted texts
• My Mobile Watchdog – Good monitoring software for those looking for a user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate
• mSpy – Grants you access to your Kid’s Snapchat account
How Technology and Mobile Devices Can be Beneficial
The issue of technology in the home is not so black and white and allowing your kids ample screen time can play a positive role in their lives, but it has to be regulated within reasonable limits.
Screen time can be beneficial in single-parent households and homes that may be time-stressed, so while it’d be nice to say “Give them 2 hours per day”, the same rules won’t apply to every family.
When a child is occupied with their mobile device, a parent has the time needed to do laundry, attend the needs of other family members, or cook dinner.
Therefore, if you limit screen time too much, it can result in more money spent on takeout food, more paid childcare hours, and possibly more chaos at home.
Parenting in the age of digital technology is something that no one prepared us for, but with the tips and tools we have provided above, you should have everything you need to create a sound plan. Try out different styles and see which one works best for you and your children.
You might first try an app monitoring software approach, but then realize that a more lenient approach works better, and that’s okay.
In the end, you’ll want to find the approach that nurtures your parent-child relationship and molds your children into safe, responsible, and productive young adults.