One of the challenges we hear from dads is "How do I get my teen to look up from her phone? She's always on it."
Kids spend about seven hours a day on electronic devices. Too much unfettered use can impact health by reducing attention span, limiting exercise, cutting back on personal contact, exposure to conspiracies, bullying, and pornography, and risky behavior if kids choose to text while driving.
Making the connection.
So how do we enter into this sacred space of electronic communication? We've got a few ideas.
Be a good example. Engage with your kids. Limit your use of electronic devices when you are around them.
Set limits. Cut off access a couple hours before bed. Make sure homework gets priority. Be wary of unrestricted meandering.
Monitor content. Connecting offers valuable, educational and informational content. But it also introduces subject matter your teen may not be developmentally mature enough to handle. Keep an eye on what kids are accessing and who they are communicating with. Check into parental controls that may be available.
Balance use with demonstrated responsibility. The more responsible your teen is, the more access can be provided.
Friend your child. Have your child friend you as a requisite for using social media so you can see who she connects with.
Limit phone access in response to bad behavior. It can be a powerful incentive for good behavior.
Privacy. We live in an increasingly shared world. Content can easily be re-posted to a broader audience, far beyond where it was intended to go.
Ask questions. Find out how your child connect with friends, who they connect with, how they use the internet
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests some questions you can use for talking with your child. For teens: "Mrs. Smith told me Jennifer uses Facebook. Is that something you've thought of doing? Do you already have a profile? If so, I'd like to see it." For tweens and older elementary school kids: "Are you planning on meeting up with kids on Club Penguin today? I'd love to see how that works." Or, "Let's look at your text log today together. I'd like to see who's been texting you."
Permanence. What your son or daughter puts out on the web can be there indefinitely and can have far reaching consequences.
Judgement is critical. Again, The American Academy of Pediatrics has some good suggestions:
Discuss what "good judgment" means
Discourage gossiping, spreading rumors, or bullying
Have your kids show you privacy features for social media they use
Show your kids you know how to use what they are using, and are willing to learn what you don't know
Create a strategy for monitoring use and follow through. You may want to say "Today I'll be checking your computer and cell phone."
Parental oversight in the digital world is just as important as involvement in the physical space.