Parents today believe that it is harder now to raise children than when they were young. The number one reason? Technology.
The changes in technology that have occurred in the past twenty years are mind-boggling, and with these changes come parenting challenges. Prior to this era of technology, when confronted with parenting challenges, parents could fall back on the wisdom of previous generations. Before this age, children would look to parents as the experts in navigating the outside world. Now, parents struggle to stay abreast of the latest developments and often call upon the expertise of their children to navigate through this brave new world!
In spite of the challenges, parents are still the most important influence on their children’s lives. Children need to know that their parents are watching out for their health and safety in all aspects of their lives. It’s important for parents to talk among themselves on a regular basis to keep abreast of changes and to utilize tools put forth from trusted resources such as “Faith and Safety Initiative”, a resource from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The internet allows us to learn, connect with friends and family, play and grow. Unfortunately, it can also bring cyberbullying, pornography, and predators into our homes. Parents can reduce the possibility of these bad consequences through accountability software and content filters, but the most important tool that they have to protect their children is themselves. Talk to your children about your concerns and establish guidelines which everyone in the family follows.
When considering your plan of action regarding internet use and safety, first look at your own habits. In survey after survey, the number one grievance of the majority of our children and youth goes something like: “I wish my parents would get off their screens and talk to me.” Our actions speak louder than our words.
Consider these suggestions:
Help your child understand that any technology we use should help us grow continually in our relationship with God – that’s our primary goal in all that we do!
Talk to your children about your concerns and make sure that they understand that they can talk to you about anything which makes them feel uncomfortable.
Ensure that your children understand that the use of devices is a privilege and not a right. Help them to understand that when you monitor their phones and tablets, you do it with their safety in mind. Confirm that you have the usernames and passwords for all apps and that no software is downloaded without your knowledge and permission.
Take an interest in the games and apps which your children use. Talk to them about their online activities.
Install and use accountability and filtering software such as “Covenant Eyes” on all devices in your home.
Draw up a “Family Media Agreement”. Sample agreements can be found on the Faith and Safety site or on internetsafety.com. Use the agreement as a communication tool and display it in a place that is regularly seen, such as on the refrigerator.
Ensure that everyone understands that internet-enabled devices can only be used in the “public” areas of the home.
Establish times and places where family members when devices cannot be used – such as during mealtime, during specific family time and in the bedrooms. Help your child understand that you put family interactions and their health over the virtual world. Establish regular times of having the family “go off the grid” while at home – perhaps a few hours a day, a day each week, or two weeks (or more!) a year.
Consider establishing the directive, “our devices go to bed before we do and we wake up before they do”. At least 1 hour before bedtime have everyone plug their devices into docking stations in an area which can only be accessed by parents. It is estimated that 7 out of 10 adults and 8 out of 10 teens sleep with their phones next to them. Teens in particular need 8-9 hours of total rest each night. True rest cannot take place when calls and notifications come in over the nighttime hours.
Help your children understand that our devices should serve our needs, not control us. Model responsible behavior. The habits you exhibit concerning technology use in your home will become your children’s habits.