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Encouragement for the Digital Parent

digital parenting Feb 03, 2018

Being the super advocate on Internet and technology, I had loaded their kid tablets up with plenty of educational apps and games, so I thought I was ahead of the game.

Imagine my surprise when my four year old starts clicking photos and focuses in on a little girl down the hall. I gasped, grabbed the tablet and told my son that we do not take pictures without asking people first. I slapped my hand to my head because it had totally slipped my mind that their little tablets were camera- and video-equipped.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that you are not alone in dealing with technology and parenting. I consult, teach and coach others on Internet safety and best practices and yet even for me, it is not always easy.

But instead of playing the blame game and feeling like a bad parent, I realize that this happens. We cannot stay on it 24/7 and we cannot know the latest news on all technology, apps and games. But we can stay relatively informed and try to nip things in the bud when they happen. You do not have to be an Internet safety advocate to use common sense when educating your children; you just have apply your same offline parenting skills to a new online world.

Encouraging Take-Aways:

  1. Our parents probably felt overwhelmed as we sat in front of the television watching Gilligan’s Island and Hogan’s Heroes and they wondered if our brain development wouldn’t be stunted. (I don’t know about you, but I have several advanced degrees and can still sing the Theme Song to Gilligan’s Island and Green Acres, if you must know.)
  2. You really do not have to be the King or Queen of Internet and Technology in order to be a good digital parent. But you should be aware of current issues and best practices and consider signing up for newsletters from Good Digital Parenting (US resources.) You can also take a look at the topics and publications from Pew Research Internet Project. Just skimming some of the topics (Internet of things, US views of technology in the future, mobile phone usage in the US) will feel less like homework from computer science class and more like a hip tech friend sharing secrets.
  3. If you are not sure what types of games or apps are appropriate for your child, you can consult Common Sense Media top lists for ratings on age-appropriate games and apps for 2-17 year olds.
  4. If something does happen and you are unsure of how to react, don’t panic. Parent. Take a deep breath and think it through. You are surely not the first parent who has to deal with this issue. You can do quick research on Net Family News or Connect Safely where you will undoubtedly find well-researched commentaries and guidance on how to deal with your issue.
  5. If you are still feeling out of your depth, again don’t panic. You can look at issue specific guidelines from NetSmartz or contact the CyberTipline to make an actual report.
  6. Okay, so you’ve read everything, you’ve created screen limits, you’re following all the parenting tips, you’ve cleaned up your digital footprints, and yet your children still fight you over screen time, throw tantrums when you limit their gaming consoles and overall just act like digital demons. What to do?
  7. Well my digital parent friend, you take a deep breath, you realize that you are not alone, you know that support is just a click away and you keep on parenting. You keep on doing what is right to raise a responsible digital citizen. And let’s not forget, it’s the same type of parenting that you were doing before, only now our children have more technology to play with.

If YOU have any digital parenting tips to share on how you overcame an issue, or found a creative solution to a screen time, gaming problem, please comment here. We are all in this together.

(This post originally appeared on A Platform for Good, for the Family Online Safety Institute.)

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