As we continue to adjust to life-at-home during the pandemic, we might find ourselves tapping on more screens and screen time to educate, entertain and engage our children. We share some tips to help give our children safe and positive online experiences.
There has always been strong concern about our children using screens from too early an age, as well as what the right balance of time watching a screen is. However, given the pandemic and the consequent policies and regulations including lock-down and remote learning, it has become more challenging to separate screen time and online experiences between education and entertainment.
Coupled with thinking that our children’s future world will involving working alongside machines and automatons, can we afford for them not to be familiar with the changing faces of technology?
Setting expectations and boundaries around screen-time can help and frequent communication can make it easier for our children to understand how the current state of affairs came to be.
On a positive note, being connected through screens with grandparents, school mates, online class instructors, can help our children reduce or adapt better to this new environment.
Importantly, as a father, you want to ask and know how to optimse all the good things the internet and being digital can offer, while reducing the potential harm?
Here are 6 tips to consider and to experiment with. Not all of them will work for you and your family; but trial and error will lead to a realistic balance.
Frequent and open communication delivered through a dialogue
Start and maintain dialogues and ongoing conversations with your children about who and how they are interacting with online – whether through chat programmes, video-calls or text. Share with them the value of being kind, supportive and how to engage through digital mediums and online experiences, especially through mediums that lack body language.
Explain to them what and how inappropriate, mean or discriminatory conversations or chats look like and the impact it might have on the recipient. Tell them you are there for support, and if they encounter such behaviour to feel comfortable sharing it with you or a trusted adult. Watch for signs of cyberbullying or if your child is upset or puzzled about interactions.
Set boundaries together with your child on how devices, screens and time is used
Talk and explain or show (if your child is older) about the benefits and the disadvantages associated with an over-indulgence of screen time. Walk-through both your hopes that they understand and become familiar with technology and also your discomforts about excessive time spent and the potential effects on them. Set schedules, or agree on boundaries together alongside both carrots and sticks for keeping to them.
Model relevant and appropriate online experiences and behaviours for your children
Show them your interactions with your parents, family members, and friends as they happen across mediums and devices. For example, schedule regular catch-up calls with the grandparents, or watch videos together that your friends have sent you. Explain and demonstrate how digital payments work, or why you keep your laptop or web camera covered when not in use.
Connecting with others virtually is valuable these days, and it will help keep relationships strong and sustained for when we can all visit one another freely again.
Teach them about misinformation and how to recognise such content
Explain to your children about misinformation and how to keep an open, critical mind about information received through the internet, or on chat programmes. Show them how you would check and verify information – perhaps through a fact checker – before deciding whether to send it on to others in the family or friend network.
Look for fun things to do alone and together through the internet
The internet can be a wonderful place to learn information or pick up a new skill or hobby. Look for videos of places you would like to bring the family to, one day when leisure travel resumes. Watch the wonders of nature, the beauty of wildlife, the varieties of foods and the landscape of different cities together.
Or pick up a new exercise movement through online fitness classes, or how to improve on drawing or colouring. There are many free resources available to fill up a day or a weekend together.
Protect your children with technology
Where possible, be familiar and understand the device your child is using, and the spaces they are going to when online. Install the latest software, and patches to reduce device vulnerability. Use parental controls through the device or router to limit access to questionable and dodgy websites. Try not to associate your child’s full name with their pictures online. This extends to your own sharing on social media platforms. Teach your children how to keep their personal identifiable information such as name, address, ID number, and others private, from strangers and acquaintances.