Are you hitting glitches raising your children in the digital age? Emma Bangay uncovers some fantastic expert guidelines for drawing a line with online behaviour.
Once upon a time, pets were generally considered the only non-human members of the family. Now, there is often a few more ever-present members. Apparently, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are here to stay explains Bill Ratner, author of 'Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth Behind Media’s Effect on Children and What to do About it'.
Bill's take on the role of technology in the family unit is particularly firm. He believes, toddlers tend to mimick their parents' focus on iPhones and the like - a kind of 'monkey-see, monkey-do' - which is only further encouraged by access to these devices.
"Sadly, the vast majority of parents are addicted to their own digital devices, serving as bad examples to their children. Plus, parents use their iPhones and iPads as electronic babysitters,” he says.
Bill believes that by creating stronger rules surrounding devices early on in your child's life, internet connection may be lost, but family reconnection will be rediscovered.
These are the rules Bill likes to live to to help curb dependence on technology:
- Families should have breakfast and supper together, and digital devices should be banned from the dining table - for both parents and children, Bill urges. Enforce this rule, and it simply won't become an issue.
- Bill says parents should read to their children every night before bed and children should not be allowed television sets in their bedrooms. As children get into primary school age and beyond, homework should be done in a public spot in the house where parents can monitor the child’s behavior and make sure the homework gets done, he adds.
- There should be 'digital entertainment' hours when the child is allowed to game or web surf, but the timetable should be clear to all parties and should be enforced. So, instead of having solo device time of a weekend, bring the clan together on the couch for a movie together instead.
- For extra peace of mind, children’s phones can be charged at a central charging station in the kitchen and taken to their rooms only when they need privacy for a phone call.
- "Parents should invest in computer software which limits the kinds of sites their children can surf," Bill suggests. “They should also install tracking apps on the smartphones their children carry."
- If a parent is paying for their teenager’s internet or phone, they have negotiating power. "They can call for negotiations with their child, and on the bargaining table should be the 'pull-the-plug' option for the parents. Teens listen when they know the plug can be pulled," Bill believes.
- Family meals and homework take up enough time during the school week so weekends should be the only time a child can have free access to digital devices for any reason other than homework, Bill advises. “If a parent is consistent and rules are enforced, ‘reward’ time on weekends can serve the family well,” he adds. “But if a parent only lectures and doesn’t apply their rules and guidelines, things won’t turn out well.”
- “Until the child is 18 years old, it is perfectly reasonable for a parent to utilise ways of monitoring their child’s online behavior," Bill insists. "They shouldn’t allow a child to have social media passwords unless the parent can share the password and have access to the child’s Facebook page, twitter page, etc.”