Screening Screen Time
Screen time is a growing concern, but adults can set a good example by demonstrating a healthy balance between screens and face-to-face interaction. Kids can struggle to build in-person relationships and gravitate toward detached relationships through various social media platforms. Why? Because it’s easier. The internet also makes it easier for kids to bully or hurt someone. They are more likely to cross moral boundaries online because screens often provide a sense of anonymity and lack close adult supervision. Set clear limits on how much screen time is allowed, as well as when and where it’s acceptable. There shouldn’t be any room for it at the dinner table, and limit screen time in the evenings. Take a look at the picture below and ask yourself, “Does my family time look like this?”
If the answer is “yes,” then it’s time for a change!
Old Rules for New Trends
The internet provides unfettered access to practically everything. We need to know what type of content our children are looking at, and adults should always have access to their social media accounts. It’s relatively simple to set up parental controls on home computers and smartphones to limit access times and block inappropriate websites.
It’s also important to teach kids how to behave online. I grew up with old-school rules, and those rules still apply online. (Side note: a really good summary of those rules comes from a book by Ted Claypoole and Theresa Patton – Protecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online?) Here are six rules with old-school roots that still provide commonsense guidance for using the internet:
Review these tips with your kids and discuss potential negative outcomes if they ignore this guidance. The internet is an incredible resource, but every child should use it with reasonable caution.
Do Your Part
We need to know what our kids are up to, and up against, online. We have to teach them to behave just as they would in the real world. We also need to quit using the internet as a babysitter. Put the screens away and interact with your kids. Pop some popcorn, pull out some board games and have some fun. If your kids are craving web time, find healthy and productive ways to incorporate it into your activities (i.e., research craft projects online and then spend time completing them). These moments provide great opportunities to discuss internet safety and learn how your kids use the web. Taking a hands-on approach can help create a safer internet experience for all.