The digital world doesn’t need to be scary

by | FearLess, Parenting with Courage

Children playing an online gameDid you know that your children are digital natives?  They haven’t known life on earth without the internet.  The digital pioneers led the charge, and I’m a product of that age.  My childhood years have memories of life without the internet. Very different from the generation growing up today.  However, social media doesn’t need to be scary for us parents.

Think about the rapid advancement of technology.  For my gran one of the most significant inventions of her time was the motorcar, for my mother it was the microwave, for me it was the iPhone and now artificial intelligence (it’s changing as I write). What will it be next?  Whenever technology advancements are significant, it seems to impact the way we live.  Along with that comes a fear of the unknown and various debates on how to adapt.

With any relationship, healthy boundaries are essential.  Even more so as we parent our children through this age.

Five healthy attitudes to living in a ‘connected’ digital world:

  1. Help your children to embrace healthy social media use.  Do this by teaching them appropriate usage from a young age.  Coach them on social media etiquette.  For example, when they are out with friends or family, to pack their phone away or to turn their phone face down on the table (and on silent) to indicate that the person with them has their undivided attention.
  2. Model the kind of connected behavior and social platform responses you would want your children to use.  Your children are watching you like a hawk (they might pretend that they are not, but they are). Create analog times and moments with no devices around.
  3. Use it for good.  There are many ways to use technology for our benefit.  It can boost productivity, educate people, and expand your ability to communicate globally
  4. Establish healthy boundaries for personal and family use.  Consider starting a “digital sunset,” in your home.  Reduced digital usage at night improves sleep quality and feelings of well-being. 
  5. Set wise time and usage limits on usage. Consider installing safe search apps and remotely monitor their usage.  There are online apps to protect our children and us.  

Be aware of fear-based parenting

Don’t give into fear-based parenting. Instead, educate yourself thereby moving towards proactive and empowered parenting.  The dark side of online addictions and social media usage can so easily produce fear in us.  Fear that online predators will stalk our children, fear of cyber-bullying, fear of being exposed to harmful images and much more.  Unfortunately, too much technology usage has negative consequences.  It’s been linked to reduced academic performance, laziness, a loss of joy and the ability to enjoy life or even connect relationally with other people.  The thing about digital devices is that it is so easy to pretend and get your ‘dopamine hit’ from how many likes you received from your latest Instagram post. For parents, the battle is real.  And it’s one worth taking one. 

Wisdom says that we need to understand how our preteens and teens use social media, and its impact on factors like sleep quality, mental health, well-being and their physical growth.

Training your children to use social media doesn’t need to be scary:Digital usage need not be scary

  1. Become familiar with the apps that your children are using.   
  2. Check your settings on all your media devices and then look at your children’s settings (make sure that they are set to ‘clean’ or have age-appropriate settings).  
  3. Work at improving sleep quality in your home.  Researcher, Dr. Heather Cleland Woods, said: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.” She went on to say that problems were more prone to arise during night-time social media use. 
  4. Talk to them regularly and with compassion.  Talk specifically into what is acceptable to post and what is not.
  5. Pray strategically for your children as they use technology.

By promoting healthy and appropriate digital usage, the whole family will benefit.  This means that fear has no place as you raise your children to use the internet wisely.

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