Keeping your kids safe and healthy in the digital world can be quite a difficult task. Today’s children are digital natives. They are born into the world of smartphones and computers. These devices are now a necessity and no longer a luxury. But the question is, to what point is smartphone or PC usage unhealthy? At which point do they reach a saturation?
Moreover, who will determine the set of rules that will govern the children’s use of phone? Will it be teachers? Doctors? Parents? Should it be a matter of public health? Whatever the scenario is, when it comes to developing good habits about screen time, parents should step in first.
Phone addition is a real problem. It is not just there in kids, but also in their parents. One of the original iPhone designers admitted that the iPhone was developed in a way that it was addictive. This is even true about Facebook. One of the biggest social media site was developed to be addictive in nature. It may be good for business, but it is not good for kids. A lot of technology surrounding us is not built keeping in mind their effect on children. However, children and teenagers form a large user base.
According to a survey conducted by Common Sense Media, 59% of the parents surveyed believe their teenage kids are addicted to their phones, and 50% of the teens themselves admit they are in fact addicted. Over 70% of them feel the need to immediately respond to texts and messages.
When it comes to teaching kids good habits about technology usage, it is the best to teach them by example. A parent who is already addicted to social media will have a hard time about schooling his or her children. Even if work demands a parent to be with a phone or a computer most of the day, then they should change their work habits.
Children will learn by seeing their parents and if they see their parents spend more time doing other activities besides being stuck with the phone or PC, they’ll also follow. Moreover, during their spare time, parents can basically spend more time with their children, which will basically keep the phone away.
1. Set rules
So, the very first tip is to set some ground rules when it comes to using phones. Especially, in social occasions, or even at the dinner table, usage of phones should be null. These rules are not just for children, but for parents too. The best idea is to keep your phone somewhere else when you sit at the dinner table. If the phone is physically out of reach, you will fidget less with your phone. If a call comes, you can leave the table momentarily to take the call – just like you’d do with a wired landline phone.
Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says
Today’s teens are just not spending as much time with their friends in person, face-to-face, where they can really read each other’s emotions and get that social support. And we know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best predictors for psychological well-being and one of the best protections against having mental health issues.
Kids should be taught that too much time spent in the digital world can cause loneliness, and our children need to be taught it’s no substitute for the real world.
2. Set limits
Getting lost in social media is pretty easy. We spend hours after hours simply scrolling down, looking at posts. So, set limits regarding website usage. On your children’s phone’s and PCs, you can use a parental control to do that.
Windows PCs already come with parental control built in. On smartphones, you can use another app to restrict website usage. Or even better, get a smart home router where you are set parental control rules.
3. Educate about addiction
It is important to teach your children that phones are not necessarily a bad thing, but addiction can be. They need to understand that even though phones are PCs are integral parts of our lives, too much of anything is not good.
Jean Twenge, says
The first is just awareness that spending a lot of time on the phone is not harmless and that if you’re spending a lot of time on the phone, then it may take away from activities that might be more beneficial for psychological well-being, like spending time with people in person.
Then for parents, I think it is [a] good idea to put off giving your child a smartphone as long as you can. If you feel they need a phone, say, for riding a bus, you can get them a flip phone. They still sell them. And then once your teen has a smartphone, there are apps that allow parents to restrict the number of hours a day that teens are on the smartphone, and also what time of day they use it.
4. Teach proper netiquette and cybersecurity
Finally, teaching your children to behave properly on social media is just as important as teaching them table manners. Talk to your children about being respectful to others online, and why bullying in cyberspace is never okay. Also advise them how to be safe: avoid chatting with strangers, beware of clicking on unknown files, and always look closely at any file they consider downloading.