The family unit doesn’t look quite the same as it did 50 years ago. Heck, it doesn’t look the same as it did 15 years ago. Helping your family to live a healthy, safe, and happy life is a lot more complex in today’s digital age. With new and innovative technology entering our lives on a daily basis, it can seem pretty daunting to provide our families with the protection they need without going overboard.
Here are four ways to show your family some technological support in the digital age.
1. Set Some Rules (and stick to them)
Okay, so this isn’t going to sound like a lot of fun, but setting some ground rules about your child’s digital experience is the first step in keeping them safe and letting them take part in digital media. The ground rules you set will be the basis for how your family interacts with its media, and will give you some peace of mind. Here are a few to start with:
- It’s important to set parameters on how much screen time per day is allowed, the times of day it’s allowed, and which websites/apps are okay to visit.
- Determine whether your child can watch digital media alone or if they must be in the presence of a parent.
- Give your child guidance about what to do if they encounter an inappropriate situation.
- Help your child recognize what bullying is and teach them how to identify when they are being digitally bullied and when they are engaging in bullying behaviors of their own. Stopping bullying begins at home.
- Ultimately, try having a conversation with your kids about safe digital practices and include their ideas in setting any ground rules. The rules will be much easier for kids to adhere to if they know the reasons behind them and if they are a participant in their creation. Also, you might learn a thing or two from your kids!
Once your ground rules are chosen, be sure to stick to them. The easiest part of rules is creating them, but if there is no follow through, then there’s not much hope for their effectiveness or legacy.
If you need some help coming up with clear rules in the digital media space, check out this great article from Empowering Parents. Also, check out our Online Safety Resources board and Don’t Be the Bully board on Pinterest.
2. Establish Time to View as a Family
Streaming from mobile devices and instant access to media are here to stay. It’s inevitable that your children will be watching movies and TV shows right on their devices, often preventing social interaction with the family.
To counter this, set aside time for regular family movie nights. Whether you watch a show that suits the whole family or take turns choosing favorites for each family member, this is a great opportunity to watch together and ideally, talk about what you’ve seen. Show topics can open up great conversations and moments for teaching and can even provide a chance to just connect with your children about their interests. Finding out why your child likes a particular show can tell you a great deal about their fears, hopes, dreams and other interests.
Watching as a family can also allow you to choose programs that align with your family values. Setting a strong example for the types of shows that you feel are appropriate will help your children make better decisions about media consumption when they’re old enough to choose their own shows.
3. Do Your Research
Use your second screen to do some research before settling into a show or movie. A little research can go a long way towards seeing how well a particular program may or may not line up with your values.
A great resource to help you is Common Sense Media. This organization reviews shows, movies, books, games, websites, apps and more for elements such as positive messaging, violence, role models, language, and consumerism and assigns a recommended age rating.
Also, spend time just getting to know some of the shows and their characters before letting your children watch, even if it’s just watching the first five minutes to gauge the show’s tone and style. This can give you a sense of the value that the show offers your family.
4. Keep Technology Out of The Bedroom
At first glance this may seem like an extreme measure but it’s important for children of all ages to get an appropriate amount of quality sleep each night. Keeping technology out of your child’s bedroom is the first step in creating a space that is primed for sleeping. This can be especially important if your child has their own mobile device or tablet. Consider a system where their device gets put away in special place at bedtime or implement an in-device or bedtime curfew or timer.
Keeping technology out of the bedroom and consuming it in a more public place will also make it easier for you to keep a watchful eye on the type of content that your kids are accessing.
These four tips can help you in keeping your family safe and informed in today’s digital age. If you’re looking for more insight into digital safety check out our Safety section of our blog. Do you have a particular tip or trick that works well for your family? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below to share your stories.
~ Alicia & Jeremy