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Difficult digital parenting scenarios

How to Deal with Difficult Digital Parenting Scenarios

Aug 01, 2022

Creating a strategy for how you and your family are going to develop healthy habits and boundaries with technology is an important part of being a responsible digital parent. However, it is more than likely that you will come across some difficult scenarios that are going to challenge that strategy and your chosen parenting techniques.

In this guide, I will detail some of the typically challenging scenarios that you’re likely to face as a parent or caregiver and offer tips for how you might apply digital parenting strategies to work through them.

The scenarios we will be focusing on include:

  • online sharing
  • social media
  • tablets and smartphones
  • online video games and screen time.

Check out my digital parenting courses for even more age-specific resources to help you and your family navigate the digital world.

 

Online sharing and data protection/privacy

To be part of the online environment, it’s highly likely that you will have to exchange some of your personal information to be able to access to digital platforms. This is also true for your children.

While using a platform, users may share information in the form of images, videos and

more, as they connect, play and learn together online. Many children feel comforted and validated when sharing online because other children may feel the same way, may like the content they share or may want to engage with them in conversations.

Despite the benefits this type of connection may bring, children using these platforms are establishing a digital footprint from a young age—one that has the potential to be with them for a lifetime.

Children and adults alike do not always consider the risks of over-sharing information or how best to protect their privacy. So, it’s crucial to broach the subject of sharing and privacy online with your children before they begin to establish their own digital footprint.

 

Positive digital parenting tips

  • When sharing photos or videos on social media sites, be sure to set the strictest privacy settings to share only with friends and family, both for yourself and your children.
  • Speak with your children about what is personal information, both concerning them individually and other family members.
  • Review the data protection and privacy information available on social media and gaming platforms.
  • Discuss your family expectations and values about online sharing.
  • Perform regular name searches to verify the online content related to your family.

 

Social media

Social media platforms are connecting children and young people in unprecedented numbers and ways. These platforms allow users to share creative content­—such as videos and images, make connections with others over shared interests, values and ideals, and have interactive dialogues and enhance friendships and relationships. In these ways, social media can play a vital role in children’s social and creative lives and can be a positive complementary extension to their face-to-face interactions.

However, social media sites can also pose risks to children. Oversharing, seeing or sharing inappropriate images, cyberbullying, grooming, and sexting are some of the very real threats that face children accessing the online environment.

Parents and other caregivers can guide children in the responsible use of social media so that they can learn how to recognize and navigate the risks and how they want to be treated and treat others online.

 

Positive digital parenting tips

  • Determine whether the social media platform is appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Consider guiding your child in proper usage—rather than outright restriction—so that they can learn from you.
  • Check privacy and location settings and make sure that the settings are not allowing for access to personal images and videos.
  • Make your child understand that people encountered exclusively online cannot always be trusted in the same way as real-life friends.
  • Reinforce the notion of not sharing personally identifiable information.
  • Consider opening an account on the same social media platform and ‘friending’ your child.
  • Make sure that your child has other trusted adults to speak to (e.g. a relative or teacher) if they do not want to share with you.

 

Tablets and smartphones

 

These days, smartphones give access to a whole host of online apps such as WhatsApp, Google maps, Instagram, TikTok and more. Tablets, while essentially portable computers that use a touchscreen, can also provide access to the same online platforms—and potentially more—than a smartphone. Both devices can bring many educational and entertainment opportunities to users, but they have their risks too.

Many children use tablets and smartphones daily, and unfortunately there are many things that can go wrong. Risks include excessive exposure and time spent on digital devices and screens, involvement in cyberbullying, sexting, grooming, excessive gaming, and more.

 

Positive digital parenting tips

  • Discussions with your children on how (and how often) they use tablets and smartphones, even if uncomfortable at times, are necessary to provide guidance.
  • Make sure that your children feel confident to speak to you—or another trusted adult—if they’ve encountered something online that makes them feel uncomfortable. They should also feel confident that they can speak to a trusted adult when/if anything serious happens.
  • If you have not yet given your child a smartphone or tablet, use your critical thinking skills to consider whether the device is necessary at their age and their level of responsibility.
  • If you have given a smartphone or tablet to your child, make sure that you investigate the parental settings and other features of the device so that you can guide your child in responsible use.

 

Online gaming

Online video games can be exciting and educational. The benefits of playing online video games include critical thinking, collaboration, strategy formulation, creativity and more.

However, there are risks associated with online gaming too. These include excessive screen time, safety issues presented by chat features—exposure to foul language, cyberbullying and the potential to befriend a dangerous person, expensive in-app purchases—while the game is free, special accessories, etc. can often be purchased, and increased anxiety levels due to the competitive nature of the game. Predator scan also use online games to lure children into dangerous situations.

 

Positive digital parenting tips

  • Educate yourself about the game and play with your children, so that you can form your own opinions and decisions about it.
  • Research games by looking at reputable resources for app reviews or ask other parents in your community.
  • Communicate with your children about risks associated with online games.
  • Make sure you know what (and when) your children are playing online.
  • Set ground rules—such as never share any personal information, only play/communicate with people that they know in the real world whenever possible, and only play where parents can listen and hear what is happening.
  • Depending upon the age and maturity of your child, disable the chat feature and use age-appropriate parental controls to make sure your children are not spending too much time (especially unsupervised) playing games online.

Screen Time

Screen time is defined as any time your child is in front of a screen—whether that be on a smartphone, tablet, gaming console, television, computer or movie screen. The amount of time spent in front of a screen can steadily rise as children spend time on tablets at home, watch videos in school, with the sitter, with a relative or with friends.

While children are certainly entertained and attracted by screens, the notion of screen time is problematic. Doctors, academics, and other experts are still trying to understand the effects of screen time on children. The research is not conclusive on how screens impact upon child development—physically, emotionally, and psychologically. The definition of what is “too much” will differ depending on the child’s age group, purpose of use, and the sensitivity of the individual child. Because of this, getting the screen time balance right will vary from one situation to another.

 

Positive digital parenting tips

  • Find quality content for your children so that they can learn, play, and discover with online resources.
  • Design the rules for your family—which includes parents and other caregivers—with (e.g.) a “family media agreement”. Remember that being consistent will provide its rewards in the long-term.
  • Explain your expectations for your child’s screen time and any consequences for non-respect of screen time limits.
  • Involve your children in alternative activities to help reduce time with devices.
  • Use parental controls, as appropriate, to help you establish rules for screen time.
  • Be flexible as children grow and learn online—online time required for school should not prevent children from also having time for online social and leisure activities; consider keeping a screen log to chart downtime, study time, online time.
  • Involve your children in the discussion—how they can help with your family media guidelines?

 

Check out the digital parenting courses which are split into age-specific pods to help parents and caregivers tackle the challenges that they may be facing when raising children in this digital age.

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