Living in the Digital Age has got to be the hardest era to live in as a parent. Not only do we have to navigate our lives around digital means, but we also have the added responsibility of shaping the way our children use digital media. Our children, labelled Digital Natives, have had access to technology from day 1.

Our children’s lives will always be influenced by digital technology. I mean, let’s be honest, there are so many things our children won’t know or feel due to the rise of this Digital Age.

They will never understand a true lack of knowledge; the joy of a weekly trip to the local library to research a topic for a project; the pleasure of forgetting an embarrassing moment seen by their friends. And, unfortunately, they will know all about sex before you even get the chance to talk about the birds and the bees with them. As parents, we need to be mindful that our children’s lives will be displayed in front of the whole world. Our responsibility in managing this is critical to the success of our children’s well-being.

The excessive use of digital forms has allowed us to hide behind screens and limit our verbal communication. We’d rather text than call someone. Our relationship building skills are compromised as we are rewarded with the feeling of being social without having to actually go out and socialize face to face. In fact, in some cases, social filters are bypassed because we haven’t learnt how to interact face-to-face. And I am seeing this more and more in children. Not only are their social skills lacking due to excessive screen time, but kids are experiencing sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and obesity (surfing the net is not exercise!).

Our kids are exposed to emotions at an age younger than their EQ allows. There is a pressure for likes/followers on their social media pages, which leads to a host of insecurities including decreased self-confidence. And let’s not mention the heartbreaking instances of cyberbullying and online predators. Now more than ever, our children need our protection. We cannot take away the technologies they are exposed to, but we can give them the tools on how to use these digital means safely.

As parents we need to take an active interest in our children’s online life. Know their passwords. Build a sense of trust and understanding, and encourage them being open and honest with you. Set age restrictions on things they can and cannot see, including graphic images/explicit videos. Make use of the various Device Filtering Tools, such as restrictions on Wifi/Service Provider restrictions, Google/YouTube content blocks.

The best advice I can provide to assist in managing the challenges we face:

  • Don’t give a smart phone to a child under the age of 12 (I didn’t say don’t give a phone!)
  • Just like your child can’t go to a pub until they are 18, they shouldn’t use social media until they are 13
  • Make sure they know they should never send a photo of themselves naked or compromised in any way to anyone ever, let alone post online.
  • Before they post something online they must ask themselves if they will be comfortable to stand up on their school stage and say it or show it to everyone during assembly? If not, don’t post it!
  • And lastly conduct regular audits on your child’s device and look out for:
    • Deleted browser history so you can’t see what sites they are visiting!
    • Use of text language – encourage correct use of English #lol
    • Inappropriate messages received or sent, including in WhatsApp / Messenger groups by friends – use this as a learning opportunity to explain by being part of the group they will be considered to agree with everything being said and if a teacher or parent gets to see the inappropriate messages they will be in as much trouble as the person who sent it
    • Followers on their social media sites (general rule – they should know the person face to face)

Have you put restrictions in place to keep tabs on your kids’ digital devices? If so, share them with us, so we can all learn together!