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Parents usually teach their children about the danger of strangers, but it’s easy to overlook some unsafe things that children can encounter in the constantly changing digital world.
Three big concerns include:
Parents can help protect children by teaching basic concepts of how to use digital devices in a healthy, safe and responsible way.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides the following tips to help parents manage the digital landscape they’re exploring with their children.
The same parenting guidelines apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know your children’s friends, both online and off. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, where they are going on the web, and what they are doing online.
Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children. And don’t forget to join your children in unplugged play whenever you’re able.
Family participation is also great for media activities—it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It’s a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. And, you can introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives—and guidance—as you play the game.
Teach and model kindness and good manners online. And, because children are great mimics, limit your own media use. In fact, you’ll be more available for and connected with your children if you’re interacting, hugging and playing with them rather than simply staring at a screen.
Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth “talk time” is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat, with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent. Research has shown that it’s that “back-and-forth conversation” that improves language skills—much more so than “passive” listening or one-way interaction with a screen.
Keep family mealtimes and other family and social gatherings tech-free. Recharge devices overnight—outside your child’s bedroom to help children avoid the temptation to use them when they should be sleeping. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep, all critical for children’s wellness.
Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.
Read this story and more in the newest issue of Families First Magazine, a quarterly magazine published by WakeMed Children’s for parents of children ages 14 and under. Get Families First delivered to your home.
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