It is necessary to help them learn healthy concepts of digital use and citizenship in a world where children “growing up digital,” In teaching these skills, parents play an important role.
- Create your own consumption plan for family media. The media should work for you and your family’s values and style of parenting. When used thoroughly and professionally, media will improve everyday life. But media can displace many main events, such as face-to-face contact, family time, outdoor play, exercise, unplugged downtime, and sleep if used poorly or without thinking.
- Treat the media in your child’s life as you would any other place. In both actual and virtual worlds, the same parenting principles apply. Set boundaries; children need them and expect them. Know your kids’ mates, both online as well as off. Know what your kids are using platforms, applications, and apps, what places they are visiting on the internet, and what they are doing online.
- Set boundaries and foster playtime. Media use should have fair restrictions, as all other practices. Creativity is enhanced by unstructured and offline play. Make unplugged playtime, particularly for very young kids, a daily priority.
- Time on the computer shouldn’t always be time alone. It facilitates social interactions, bonding, and learning to co-view, co-play and co-engage with your kids while they use screens. Play a game with your kids on camera. It’s a good way to show good etiquette for sportsmanship and gaming. See a show with them; you will have the opportunity to present and exchange thoughts and insights and guidance from your own life. Don’t just track them online, communicate with them, so you can understand and be a part of what they are doing.
- Be an effective role model. Teach and model online kindness and good manners. Since children are excellent mimics, limit your own media use. In reality, if you engage, hug and play with them rather than just looking at a computer, you would be more accessible and interacting with your kids.
- Know the importance of contact face-to-face. By means of two-way communication, very young kids learn best. It is important for language learning to participate in back-and-forth “talk time”. Conversations with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent can be face-to-face or, if necessary, via video chat. Research has shown that “back-and-forth conversation” enhances language skills even more than “passive” listening or one-way screen contact.
- Limit the youngest family members to digital media. Stop digital media other than video messaging for toddlers under 18 to 24 months. For children 18 to 24 months, when they benefit by watching and talking to you, watch interactive media with them.
- Limit screen use for high-quality programming for pre-school kids, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day. Whenever possible and for young children, co-viewing is best. They learn better from a computer when they are re-taught in the real world what they have just learned. So, if Ernie just taught letter D, when you have dinner or spend time with your kids, you can repeat this later.
- Build areas that are tech-free. Keep the television open for family dinners, other family and social events, and children’s bedrooms. Switch off televisions that you don’t watch, and with children, background television can get in the way of face-to-face time. Overnight, recharge devices outside the bedroom of your child to help him or she resist the temptation to use them while they should be sleeping. More family time, healthy eating habits, and improved sleep are facilitated by these improvements.
- As an emotional pacifier, don’t use technology. In keeping children calm and quiet, the media can be very successful, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to recognize and handle intense emotions, come up with boredom coping exercises, or calm down by breathing, talk about ways to fix the issue, and find other emotion channeling techniques.
- Kids’ apps-do YOUR homework. More than 80,000 apps are branded as educational, but their actual quality has been demonstrated by little research. Items pitched as “interactive” can involve more than “pushing and swiping.” Look for reviews of age-appropriate software, games, and services from organizations such as Common Sense Media to encourage you to make the right choices for your children.
- It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about themselves and their place in the grown-up world. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Many teens need to be reminded that a platform’s privacy settings do not make things actually “private” and that images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you’re there if they have questions or concerns.
- Alert kids about the value of privacy and the risks of sexting and predators. Teens need to realize that they will not be able to erase or remove it entirely until content is exchanged with others because it requires texting inappropriate images. They may also not know about privacy settings or prefer not to use them, and they need to be warned that sex predators often use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online gaming to reach and abuse kids.
- Remember: children will be children. Kids can use the media to make mistakes. Try with empathy to handle mistakes and turn a mistake into a teachable moment. But a red flag that points at trouble ahead could be any indiscretions, such as sexting, bullying, or sharing self-harm pictures. Parents must closely monitor the actions of their children and, if necessary, enlist supportive professional assistance, including the pediatrician of the family.
- Today, media and digital equipment are an important part of our society. The advantages of these devices can be fantastic if used moderately and properly. Research has shown, however, that face-to-face time with relatives, peers, and teachers plays a crucial and perhaps more important role in supporting the learning and healthy development of children. Keep that face-to-face upfront, and don’t let a stream of media and technology get lost.
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