Kids are not only growing up digital but we are raising digital families. In today’s world, online relationships are a normal, healthy part of life and social development. Social media can support kids as they explore and discover more about themselves and their place in the world. It’s important to establish digital boundaries and help your child learn healthy digital habits. Here are some tips to help set the ground rules and keep your family safe in the digital world.
Set Family Media Rules: Technology and our gadgets should be fun, safe and work within your family style. As with most things, when used in moderation and within boundaries, technology can enhance daily life. Without setting ground rules (and following them yourself) technology can disrupt your family flow, create safety concerns and even disconnect you from real life.
Create rules including acceptable usage times, screentime, sites that can be visited, and what can be shared. Set “unplugged” times when screens aren’t allowed and be sure to set up privacy and security settings on all devices. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what sites they are visiting on the web, and what they are doing online.
Encourage Unplugged Play: Screen time, like all other activities, should have limits. Unstructured, unplugged and offline play encourages creativity and free thinking. Make screen free playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children.
Join in on the Fun: Make it a family activity and join in during media time—it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Sit down and play a video game with your kids. You may get a chance to mold healthy sportsmanship behaviors. Joining in or monitoring is especially important for “online” gaming.
Teach by Example: You wouldn’t want your child to go on a social media rant, be an online bully, post inappropriate pictures or have their face buried in their phone— lead by example. Even if your kids can’t see or aren’t old enough to see your social media posts, doesn’t mean they won’t eventually see them! If you wouldn’t want your child to post something, you shouldn’t post it either. Put your phone down and be in the moment. Allow yourself to skip taking the picture or video and just capture it in your mind. Putting down your device allows you to be more available for and connected with your children.
Create Screen Free Zones: Keep the dinner table and other family gathering spaces, and children's bedrooms screen free. Recharge devices outside bedrooms to avoid the temptation to use them at night. If you choose to have screens in the bedrooms, be sure to set limits and keep a close eye on how the device is being used. Small changes like these encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep.
Don’t Forget “Talk Time”: Two way communication is the best way to teach young children and the best way to communicate. Engaging in conversation or "talk time" is critical for social and language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent.
Privacy, Security and Safety: We all need to know and understand that once content is shared with others online, they will not be able to delete or remove it completely, and includes texting of inappropriate pictures, this is especially important to review with teens. Always set up privacy and parental settings on every device. For internet safety news and information, check out http://www.smartcyberchoices.org/ If you or your children come across anything illegal or threatening, you should report it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline. For more information, call 800/THE-LOST (800/843-5678) or visit the Web site at http://www.cybertipline.com.