The internet is a part of all of our daily lives and this can be a wonderful thing. Never before has so much been so accessible and automated, with a wealth of knowledge and connectivity right at our fingertips at all times. It’s changed the way we think and behave- for the better and- sometimes- for the worse.
Children are growing up nowadays exposed to this profusion of content in a higher and higher concentration. When done correctly, it can help expand your child’s horizons, offer opportunities, and help foster hobbies and connections. However, there is always- as with all things- the looming danger of ‘too much’. The question is: how can we best shape our child’s relationship with technology into a healthy one that will stick with them for the rest of their lives?
Here are five ways that you can help guide your child’s growth and allow them to develop beneficial behaviors that are sure to give them the best opportunity for success in the long run.
1. Keep conversation honest and non-judgemental
The main thing that will help protect your child online is your relationship with them. It may sound surprising, but the solution to your child’s online safety isn’t any number of WIFI locks or surveillance software, as these will only serve to alienate your child and teach them how to hide things from you.
If you establish a groundwork of trust and support with your child, they will be much more likely to heed your advice and seek you out should they encounter something or someone inappropriate. The internet can be a wonderful place for your child to learn and develop skills, and this is something that should be celebrated.
2. Watch out for excessive hours spent in front of screens
For all the benefits that the internet and technology can bring to our lives, real life should always take priority. Setting hard limits on the amount of time they can spend in front of screens will only serve to antagonize them and make them more resentful to the notion of abandoning their online pursuits. A much healthier approach to this conundrum is to offer a variety of offline adventures and activities for them to take part in. By showing them the value of these real-life experiences, they’ll be set up to make these same choices for themselves for the rest of their lives rather than growing frustrated at their lack of free will.
Why not try out a family experience like hiking or treat them to some new equipment for a hobby they’ve shown an interest in? Not only will this help teach them to balance between screen-time and non-screen-time, but it will also help them build skills that will stick with them for a lifetime.
3. Teach them about basic internet etiquette and safety
As with all things, being educated will not only help you make the most of your experience, but it will help to protect you from any lurking dangers which might befall you.
The world is changing with an intensity that is only going to increase as technology progresses, so it’s about time that our narratives surrounding internet safety faced a similar kind of evolution. The generic messaging of never speaking to strangers online is a dated and unrealistic rhetoric. The internet can be a great place to make friends!
However, this doesn’t mean that personal information is something that should be shared online- especially with strangers. The importance of maintaining your privacy is something that can’t be overstated, even as popular trends seem to stray further and further away from such attitudes.
Have a serious talk with your child about what is and isn’t okay to share in public spaces- things like their full name, precise location, and much more should be reserved for offline discussion only. If you explain the hazards to them, they’re sure to understand where you’re coming from and see the importance of protecting themselves in the unregulated expanse of the online.
4. Encourage physical health breaks
Make sure your child doesn’t spend long stretches in front of a screen with no breaks- their muscle and bone health will be sure to thank you in the future! Encourage small stretching and/or yoga breaks if they’re spending a lot of time seated in order to aid with circulation.
Another important thing that can’t be overlooked is the impact that loud music or sound effects can have on your hearing- especially when exposed consistently from a young age. If your child has AirPods or headphones, there’s a real danger of high volume-related damage to hearing. The dangers of untreated hearing loss are plentiful and very serious.
Another thing to consider is eye health. Staring at screens for a long time can cause strain on the eyes due to the blue light screens emit. If you find that your child (or even you yourself) is spending a long time in front of computers, tablets, or smartphones, it might be worth looking into a pair of blue-light glasses. These are specially designed to protect your eyes from some of the more harmful light frequencies of our screens and keep your vision in top condition.
5. They’re going to want to keep some things private- even from you
The internet can seem like an incredibly scary place- it’s easy to get yourself caught up in the horror stories you see about online friends gone wrong, scams, and so much more. But, at the end of the day, you’re never going to know the details about everything your child does online. And that’s okay.
They may be your child, but they still have a right to privacy, and it’s important to respect that. The most you can do is make sure they’re educated, they trust you, and that they’re on course to build healthy and sustainable habits. If you’ve given them these tools, they’re set up for success in the best possible way.