“Mum you know I can just delete the history on my computer and you will not know where i visited?” this was a statement of fact from my 7-year-old. This was the conversation that we had recently after I asked my son for his laptop, so I could do a spot check and go through the history of the sites he had visited.
The surprise on his face when I asked how he knew about history clearing is probably the same you get when you a ask someone how a baby know that he wants breastmilk. Yes our generation of children are native digital citizens. They were born into a digital world, understand technology and gravitate towards social media and connectivity.
While I might not have wanted him to have a laptop this early, his school required them to have a laptop for school work from primary 3. The school does what it can to ensure that they have adequate filters on the school network. However, these controls are not adequate once they get home where they spend a lot of time with their laptops or other devices.
How to Monitor Your Child’s Screen Time
These digital natives are asking about how many views the video had, how many likes their post had etc. So what part do parents play? We haven’t given out (or shouldn’t) our God-given position as a child’s best teacher. Being a child’s best teacher and guide means in all areas not only in some. Parents certainly need a digital savvy 101 crash course!
Talk, discuss, learn together and ask questions about everything. The age-old advice is that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and I say that the way to a child’s heart is by communicating and talking about what’s important to them. By communicating, you are able to know what your children are talking about and thinking about. When you develop a good rapport with your child, then they will enjoy talking to you now and when they are older. This is the best way for you to introduce discussions about digital citizenship with them.
It is important to be savvy enough to understand the tools that are trending today. You should monitor their online behavior, what they are sharing and what they are viewing.
As caregivers, it is still your job to set limits. There are lots of sites, software, and trackers that help set and enforce limits. If a child thinks he can spend all his time online, on any site, sharing what he feels like then he will. Set healthy limits which will help them stay within safe limits. Qustodio is a top recommended parental monitoring software, which helps you set limits and monitor online behavior.
Be an example
if your child always asks to visit Instagram or asks if your 100th picture of him on the swing is for Instagram – check what example you are setting. Children do what you do, not what you say. So if you spend all your time together surfing facebook your children are almost hard-wired to follow in your footsteps. Be a true model of proper social media/technology usage. There is a time for physical interaction, sleep, eating time etc.
Check out resources like commensense.org for tips on digital and technology usage. Check the privacy settings of your devices and apps. Most sites offer parental control guidelines for using various apps and website, read them and apply them. e.g google offers safe search to reduce inappropriate search results. YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat all have guidelines for parental control. Itunes has a family account feature that lets you create an account and monitor your child’s activity. If your child is old enough to be on social media, be their friend so you can see what they are doing and talk about it. Children today are advanced, exposed and aware of more than we realize, rather than stick your head in the sand, be and stay relevant.
For more on raising digital natives, check out the Technology and Parenting section here.