The Daunting Digital Age

By Lidel Freeman 2020-06-28 11:33:03

Tips on how to educate your children on the safe use of phones and social media

Times are surely different from when we were kids. The most digital item we had was a cordless phone that no one could ever find. We cannot raise our children the same way our parents raised us. The world is too different. Thanks to technology some things are amazing, others very scary. Nowadays, there are so many options available at our fingertips, but these options are also available to those who wish to do harm. How do we make sure our children are safe but at the same time teach them how to manage these dangers for themselves? Especially when they carry something around in their pocket that can track their whereabouts, hold information on what they look at, provide apps that sell information, and make the pictures they make accessible to the public via the world wide web.

First and foremost: Education
It is said that we have to tell our children that there are bad people in this world, but it is also a necessity. In our house, if you do not know the person in real life then you should not be talking to them or sharing anything with them online. This includes not adding these people to follow you on apps or accepting friend requests - a friend of ours actually made a fake account to test her children on this. There are many resources online and videos to share with your children to guide you through this.

It is vital to have open communication with your children. This is true for all aspects of parenting, but it has been shown that many children will seek out others for advice, opinions, and attention because they don’t feel they can talk to their parents. Therefore it is important to give them opportunities to have open, non- judgmental conversations on what they need answers to.

We should be warning our children never to take pictures of themselves that they wouldn’t want everyone in the world, from friends, non-friends, teachers or, yes, even you, their parents, to see. Thanks to the internet, it is now all too easy for images to be used against us; students have even been denied entrance to universities based on social media searches.

Advise your children, that if someone asks for a picture or wants to have a conversation that is inappropriate, they should tell you or a trusted adult. Remind them that these images can be shared and seen by anyone and once they have been uploaded they can never be permanently removed. Try asking them things like, “What do you want the world to see, and what do you think you should keep private?”, “If you upload this image or information about yourself, what kind of attention do you think you will attract?”

There are many ways to monitor your children’s devices; i.e. apps you can add, tracking their phones, etc., and there are ways of setting up parental controls on most devices. A quick search online will help to teach you how to do this. For our family, we implemented simple, firm yet fair rules which have all worked out extremely well so far:

  • All devices are bought by us so we have as much access as they do. Our children understand that having a phone is a privilege, not a right. The purpose of their having a phone is so that we can be in touch with them and vice versa; plus they get the added bonus of it being a smartphone.
  • They must answer when we call or call back as soon as possible, otherwise, the device will be taken away and returned only when we see fit.
  • As we are all on the same account, our children know that we can track where they are at any given time. If they turn off ‘location services’, for whatever reason, they will again have their device taken away.
  • When their devices were set up, it was agreed that we would know all their passwords, so, our children understand that any given time we can ask to see their device and review what is on it.
  • All apps are downloaded from our shared account so we can see what they are adding. I am also friends with them on their social media so I can see what they are posting.

Last but just as important: Trust
Trust that you have done the best you can and that your children will make the right decisions when it matters. Despite all the monitoring we do, I have to say we rarely if ever check their devices or their accounts as our children do deserve a degree of privacy. It is important to remember that over monitoring can have a negative effect and cause your children to keep things from you or choose not to communicate their problems. For us, them knowing that the measures we have put in place are possible deters them from making poor choices. But we ensure to remind them that should they make a bad choice we will always be here for them, without judgment.

As with all aspects of parenting, it’s all about balance. Educating, communicating, monitoring, and trusting our children, in everything they do, will help them to make good choices and remain safe!