Children today have instant access to an entire world of media.
Any youngster handling their parent’s (or their own) smartphone or table can hop online and discover a wealth of materials they may not be ready for. Violent videos, graphic sexuality, distressing video games, explicit language, inappropriate music – all available within a tap of the screen.
This is a sad reality for parents the world over, though parental controls on devices do make a significant difference. However, not every parent will remember to activate these safeguards every single time they hand said device to their child to keep them entertained; children may even find a way around them.
You need to ensure your child is aware of which forms of media are suitable for them and which aren’t, without leaving them too afraid to explore. It’s best to face these dangers head-on, and help your child avoid imagery, videos, and bad language through responsible behaviour.
So: what can you do to introduce your child to the digital world in a safe, sensible way they will respond to well?
Allow Access to Media at Specific Times Only
How many evenings do you spend sitting on the couch, staring at your phone or tablet as you browse social media feeds, chatting with friends, or looking up your favourite memes?
Chances are, it’s most evenings. We’re all so used to the symbiotic relationships we have established with our digital media and technology, we may not even realise how much we depend on them.
Try to set a good example to your child: limit the amount of time they spend using smartphones or tablets, especially yours, by focusing on other activities instead. Allow perhaps one or two hours of online fun per day, and make sure they are involved in more personal, sociable events instead.
Take them for a walk, play board games together, talk about your respective days, and more. Avoid giving them a tablet as a replacement for your attention, as they may start to see a phone or tablet as an emotional crutch.
If they become dependent on their digital media and devices, they may develop an addiction.
Supervise their Outdoor Activities from a Distance
Digital technology can help your child build their own life and explore the world around them safely. You can install a child GPS tracking app on their phone or buy a wearable device instead, to monitor their whereabouts whenever they leave the house.
These are generally quick and simple to set up and can provide significant peace of mind for both of you. Your child may be eager to get outside with their friends, but they will likely feel nervous when they start leaving your side for hours at a time.
The world can seem more dangerous than ever today, particularly if you live in an urban area, but if your child knows you are tracking their location, they might find it much easier to relax.
With today’s children, GPS tracking is easy to explain and demonstrate: you can introduce them to Google Maps and navigation software as a simple indication of how the technology works. Different tracking devices and / or software have their functions and features, but at their core, they allow you to see where your child is at any time.
Perhaps take them out for a walk around the neighbourhood with the GPS tracking equipment and demonstrate it in action. Identify areas to avoid and make it clear that they will never be out of your sight. If their movement patterns suggest they are lost, you can come and find them with minimal delay.
Browse the Internet Together
It may be tempting to ban your child from digital technology and the internet altogether. Surely, this reduces their risk of accessing inappropriate media better than anything else, right?
Children who can’t get online at home are likely to still find other ways. They may use friends’ devices at school or while at their houses, and ultimately feel resentful towards you. A child might even go in search of unsuitable sites just to spite you.
You don’t want your child to be afraid of the digital world – you want them to use the technology available in a safe, responsible manner.
One effective way to encourage this type of behaviour is to lead by example. Go online together and show them how to do things they may enjoy: play games together, look up cute videos together, and generally make them feel confident navigating the internet themselves.
If your child is approaching their teenage years, respect their privacy but also keep certain filters in place. They will naturally be curious about various areas of life which will soon be open to them but try to make them feel comfortable enough to talk to you about them rather than searching for answers online.
Focus on Family Safety and Precautions
Your child will want to use social media at one time or another, especially as they become teenagers.
It’s vital that they are aware of privacy settings, the impact their posts may have, and the dangers of other people. They might not realise that a picture, video, or vitriolic status update can last forever and affect how others see them.
College applications, friendships, and even job applications can all be affected by undesirable social-media activity. Posts can be deleted, of course, but if other people have copied or reposted them, they may never go away. Your child should understand this and think carefully about posting anything to their social feeds if they are caught in the midst of powerful emotions.
You need to make sure they know not to provide their email address or phone number to anyone who requests it online, too. Though there may be no need to be afraid or doubt the person asking, your child should know to exercise caution before supplying information that may put themselves, or the rest of the family, at risk.
Introducing your child
to the digital world can be daunting, but with the right approach you can do so
in a safe, secure way that will stay with them in the future.