Children are growing up with the internet and use of technology. It is impossible for the current generation of children and teens to escape daily electronic use. Times are changing and quickly. It is important to keep up with the growth of technology by teaching your children how to use technology appropriately and how to protect themselves by recognizing potential threats. Having this discussion with children increases the chances they will be open and honest with you.
Set clear rules and expectations as a family
- Talk about all types of electronics, including phones, tablets, computers, TV and video games in the discussion.
- Rules should include acceptable times to use electronic devices, duration of time allowed and how to earn electronic privileges.
- If electronic devices are connected to the internet, have a discussion on how to protect identity. Ensure your child understands never to provide personal information (e.g., name, phone number, address, photos).
- Have the discussion on why it is important to set rules and guidelines. For example, explain you want to protect your child from potential predators: “There are not nice people out there who are mean to children. We want to keep you safe and happy.”
- It is also crucial to teach your child, from a young age, how to use the internet. Teach them how to recognize viruses, spam and inappropriate sites. Encourage them to come to you or another adult if they have concerns.
Monitor use of electronics and internet activity
- Regularly check browsing history on all electronic devices. If your children have phones, let them know you may ask to look at the devices at any time. If there is frequent disregard for the rules, revisit their electronic privileges.
- Block sites if needed. Use parental controls, especially for younger children. Don’t save credit card information if there is a chance your children will have access to it.
- Require children to complete chores and homework before using electronics. If they are to use electronics for a set amount of time, use a timer to indicate when time is up.
- Be aware of what your child is doing at friends’ houses and their house rules regarding technology.
- Turn in electronics before bedtime to ensure your children get a good night’s rest. Do not allow electronics in the bedroom if possible and refrain from use of electronics before bedtime.
Practice what your preach
Children and teens watch every move you make as a parent. If you are using electronics during mealtime, they will want to as well. On the flip side, if it is a house rule not to use electronics 30 minutes before bedtime and you consistently follow the rule, they will be more apt to comply. It also is imperative to follow through and stay consistent with rules, expectations and privileges. If children don’t always know what to anticipate, they cannot be expected to follow rules.
Source: Allison Kranich, LCPC, CAADC