From online predators to cyber bullying and access to graphic visuals, parents have a lot more to worry about these days as children grow up more exposed to technology. The more access they have on a computer or a tablet pc, the more susceptible they are to the evils of the online world, which definitely created a paradigm shift especially in terms of parenting.
According to a recent international survey, with a sample size of 2,200 mothers, about 81% of children under two years of age have some form of online presence. Whether it be photos uploaded and shared by their parents, to creating full-fledged profiles on social sites, today’s children have more online presence compared to those born a few years back. In the United states, about 92% of children have online presence by the time that they turn two.
As much as we would want to think we’re internet and gadget savvy, it turns out that most parents are still very much confused about how they can manage their children’s relationship with technology.
Unlike parents, modern kids are born and are growing up in an era where technology and devices are readily available and second nature. Technology is all around, from your flat screen TVs, to gaming consoles, to smartphones, and tablets. Whether you use it for work, or for entertainment, or to do chores, we can’t deny that gadgets and devices are a part of our daily lives and we rely on it heavily to perform minute to difficult tasks.
Consider this, kids aged two to five are more able to download apps and play video games than be able to tie their shoelaces or fly a kite.
In order to keep our children safe online, it requires parents to reevaluate old approaches and re-equip both parents and children with new set of skills, which in the end may also change the very fabric of a family’s culture.
Here are some of the parenting questions answered by Author Scott Steinberg in his book The Modern Parent’s Guide.
Q: Is there anything wrong with using the iPad as a babysitter?
A: Let’s be realistic up-front: Like many modern parents, my wife and I probably wouldn’t have survived the early years if the iPad and iPhone weren’t there to buy the occasional moment’s peace and chance to enjoy dinner out once in a while, without having to juggle screaming sprouts. But using hardware and software as a substitute for actively paying attention to or spending time with kids is a bad habit that’s all too easy to get into, and one that sells children short.
Screen time should always be limited, and use of high-tech devices balanced with other healthy everyday activities. And parents should always make a point of keeping an eye on and spending time their children — a rewarding and healthy experience for all.
Q: A wide range of products monitor children on their mobile phones and the Internet. Where is the line between appropriate supervision and spying? Is there one?
A: The line is all too fine, and the decision to implement such solutions is often a point of much contention between parents and tots. Realistically, only you can decide what’s appropriate here, though it’s often advised to openly discuss with children the presence of — and your decision to implement — such solutions. Know this, though: A truly determined tot will always find a way to circumvent such restrictions, whether through software workarounds or visiting a friend's house.
“A truly determined tot will always find a way to circumvent such restrictions, whether through software workarounds or visiting a friend's house."
The best defense here is a good offense: Teach kids positive computing habits, encourage them to come forward with questions surrounding negative situations or questionable content encountered online, and set a good example with your online behaviors. Build trust, foster parent-child communication and teach your kids how to make good decisions, and you’ll empower them to safely connect and interact. And know that — like any normal individual — they’ll sometimes mess up, and that, once breached, trust can take time to reestablish. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, despite safeguards and the best of intentions.
Q: How can parents best protect their children from online threats while respecting their privacy?
A: Educate them regarding online safety, cyber crime, rules of online etiquette and behavior, information sharing, spending and other topics. Encourage open discussion about these subjects, and give kids the freedom to come forward and share their thoughts or any questions they might have.
Discuss and agree upon house rules regarding appropriate content and the use of high-tech devices, and the punishments that will be enforced (and terms under which they’ll be rescinded), and take care to enforce them. Take advantage of parental controls and software solutions. And beyond doing always doing your homework and researching and going hands-on with new technologies and products, set a positive example through your own words and actions.
Q: Sites like Facebook and Twitter technically don't allow users under the age of 13, but many tweens lie about their age in order to sign up anyway. As a parent, should you prevent your children from signing up for such sites, even if their friends are using them? If so, what are some alternative sites they can use?
A: Children and social networks are an interesting issue. Technically, terms prohibit access to those under age 13, and studies show that three in four kids who sign up can find themselves in unpleasant online situations. But plenty of positive experiences can be had on these sites as well, and wonderful, healthy relationships formed. And many kids are mature and sensible enough to make use of them in marked and meaningful ways.
There’s no single-shot answer here as a result. Every child develops and matures at a different rate, and every household deserves the right to make the decision as to when introducing social networking is appropriate. Alternatives like Google+ (which lets you limit content sharing to pre-approved circles), Everloop and Neer may present promising alternatives, however.
Q: What is a reasonable amount of time for children to spend interacting with a screen each day?
A: That’s a question only parents are equipped to answer. But as a general guideline, experts recommend no more than one to two hours of screen time a day, and that it be balanced with an equal amount of time enjoying other real-world activities.
Q: What is the biggest mistake you see parents making when it comes to technology?
A: Ignoring it or blocking its use entirely. It’s a problem that won’t go away, and trying to halt the advance of progress is like trying to turn back the ocean’s tide with a shovel and bucket.
The best way to make technology a healthy and positive part of family life is actually to embrace it, educate yourself about it and go hands-on with new devices, apps, social networks and services wherever possible.
But don't forget to revert back to classic, physical activities, and bond over toys, games, and activities that would better boost their logic, social skills, and overall wellness.