It’s as much a matter of safety as it is of discipline; as much a matter of addiction as it is of education; as much a matter of being disconnected as it is of being too connected — parenting in this digital age that we live in.
Kids’ time on computers / video games / mobiles / TV — basically any “screen time” — is like letting your kids out on a playground. You keep it age appropriate. As toddlers they’ll not be out there without adults around, then as they grow older you will keep an eye at them from a distance, then you will begin leaving them by themselves for some games and/or for small amounts of time and so on. You keep it relatively safe. You encourage with restrictions. And so on. “Screen time” is pretty much the same, isn’t it?
The net is full of specifics that you can follow to keep your kids safe and disciplined. From where your kids’ computer should be located in the house to talking to your kids about spam, scams & strangers, to sign a screen time contract with your kids to teaching them net etiquette. On a closer look though, you will notice that broadly, it is common everyday parenting.
Here are 5 common parenting tips that can be applied to the digital world.
Be sensible and respectful.
The very basic tenet. Take the principal safety measures, put in the appropriate filters. Also we shouldn’t forget to change things around as the kids grow older. We don’t want them to snoop around or chance upon things — that we think we should be in the know of — at a friend’s place or elsewhere. Better in front of us than behind our back, I say.
We might hate it, but our kids do have a right to their privacy. One good solution is to have them agree to share their password with us, so that we can take a look — in their presence — whenever we’d like to.
Be reasonable and realistic.
Following from the above, let’s not be over-zealous with the control. Even if some of us might not be worried about the kids going behind our backs, we want to be reasonable about how much time they spend on one screen or the other. Research shows that the time it should be less than two hours a day. That is a lot of time! Even if the research has it wrong, we can safely say that half an hour a day is not too bad. We are talking about total screen time here. There’s little harm in using our negotiation skills to get them to do some outdoor activity in lieu of some screen time.
Be a good example.
Which one of us doesn’t take pride in the fact that our kids are like us. Except, of course, when they watch too much TV or like to be on their computer/phone all the time. Not that it needs any coaching, but where do we think they got that from? How about scrutinizing our own screen time?
If not screen, then what? Both for us and our child. How about some time together? Both quality and quantity matter. Think about it, if there is no or very little quantity to begin with, what will you bring quality to? Why not include screen time together? From a movie together to a game of scrabble or chess together, to sharing a joke over e-mail – it is just a question of applying ourselves to finding out how we can share more with our kids — time, space and interests.
As we spend time together, we’ll see the world from their point of view. We might get an insight into what it is they like about their screen time. What their interests are? We have lived a few decades more than them. They might know technology better than us, but we might have a couple of cards up our sleeves in getting them more insight into what interests them. Like how to find more resources for that game on Club Penguin or Minecraft.
Yes, it is as simple as that. While we would like to believe that we have it tougher than our parents as far as parenting is concerned, and there might be some truth to that, it is far from the whole truth. We have all the resources at our disposal. It is the question of disposing them effectively, efficiently and having fun while at it. It is indeed better than not having the resources at all.