Engaging with the Internet
How to talk to your kids and teens about screen time
Children and teens of today have never known a time without the internet. This means that their view of the world is largely shaped by society’s views expressed through the internet media. As such, it is up to adults to guide them in their exposure of such media. Children and teens therefore need active help in learning to navigate this tool in a productive and responsible way.
We now know from research that exposure from screen time under the age of 3 can result in the permanent damage to certain parts of the brain which prolong the learning of critical skills. Not only does the actual time in front of screens contribute to this worrisome effect, but the lack of face-to-face interaction, physical activity, motor co-ordination, sleep time, social interaction, and crucial play and down time compounds the effect. Instant gratification received also inhibits children’s/teens’ perseverance to push through difficult tasks.
So how can parents guide their children in negotiating the internet responsibly?:
- Teach children/teens that the internet is ONE tool to connect, create and learn. Instead of threatening to take it away (a tool which can be important to children/teens in terms of social engagement and school learning), be the guide to teach them how to make the most of their screen time.
- Encourage the use of other tools/activities that help children connect, create and learn in order to create a balance, which may require your and/or whole family engagement to model: for example, playing sports, building, hiking, reading, and connecting with others in groups and with specific activities.
- Have a conversation about screen time limits. By creating a visible schedule that clearly depicts assigned screen time AFTER other important activities (i.e., extra murals, family time, meal times), there is more likely to be buy-in to follow such a schedule. It is important to do this activity with your child/teen, who can give their input in terms of schedules. If there is resistance, you have the mutually agreed-upon visual schedule to which you can refer your child/teen.
- Teach children/teens to put themselves in the shoes of the person on the other side of the screen – how would you feel if you received such communication?
I enjoyed the parting words in the article:
Help your child develop a lifetime of good screen time habits by really talking to them about the risks and rewards of media consumption.
Adapted from UnGlue blog post, dated 31 January 2017 – https://blog.unglue.com/2017/01/31/really-talk-kids-screen-time/
Internet Safety Tips
Below are a host of Internet safety tips by reputable sites:
– Privacy and Internet safety questions answered – Experts answer questions regarding protection of privacy, privacy settings on social media, safety of using location apps, hacking and personal safety (Common Sense Media).
– Cyberbullying – Learn about cyberbullying and how to negotiate it (NetSmartz).