Raising digital kids
I’m always surprised by the different approach parents take when it comes to their younger kids’ use of technology. Some are only too happy to pass over their iPhones or iPads at every opportunity, while others see exposure to video games and the Internet as the end of childhood, something to be put off for as long as possible. This confusion over what’s the “right” approach has even found its way into the classroom, with neighboring elementary schools taking equal pride in their contrasting high-tech or no-tech environments.
But sheltering our kids from technology is only delaying the inevitable. We live in a digital world and if our kids don’t have at least some exposure to technology by the time they reach middle school, they risk falling behind both academically and socially. Whether it’s a school project, a birthday party, or a trip to the mall, if they’re not plugged in, they’re going to feel left out.
But an early exposure to technology doesn’t mean that we have to abandon our parenting principles. In fact, a firm hand and proper guidance while they take those first digital steps is essential. Nothing gives kids more confidence than knowing that their parents are watching over them and keeping them safe as they try new things.
Here are a few tips to ensure a successful transition to tech for your kids:
Get up to speed
Whether it’s knowing how to set up parental controls, finding out whether a video game is appropriate, or just sending a text, it’s essential that parents have at least some working knowledge of all the elements that make up their children’s digital worlds. You may not know everything about technology but you don’t want your kids flying blind or making up their own rules as they go.
Set a good example
Is your smartphone a constant companion? Do you answer texts, emails, or phone calls anytime, anyplace? If so, don’t be surprised if your kids follow your example and reach for their tech toys at every opportunity. The best way to teach our kids appropriate use of technology is to set a good example: no technology at mealtimes, no technology in the bedroom, etc. Find a set of rules that suits your family and stick to them.
Face-to-face relationships are still important
The virtual world is not a substitute for the real one. In an age where everyone on Facebook has 200 “friends” it’s more important than ever to teach the value of real relationships. Accept the role of technology in your kids’ lives, but teach them the importance of face-to-face time with friends and family.
Trust but verify
Privacy is great but not when it compromises safety. Understand what your kids are doing online and how they use their tech devices. Keep family computers in a common area and talk with them about Internet safety. Establishing trust comes from doing the right thing. Make sure you are always the first person your kids talk to when they come across something that doesn’t feel right.