Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Computers, the Internet, Your Child and You

Having the world at our finger tips is making life so much easier for us and for our children. The positives most definitely outweigh the negatives. We get to learn just about anything we want at any time. However, the Internet has added a new dimension to parenting.

One parenting consideration is how to protect our children from content that is developmentally harmful. Prevention can include using the various computer system controls created to inhibit/restrict/block either inadvertent or intentional browsing. It should also include helping our children become aware and responsible for the information they may find by talking with them about Internet safety. Let them know they may find inappropriate things on the Internet.

If you feel there are inappropriate Internet materials online about yourself, tell them so. Children need to know not everything on the Internet is true. One way children can learn which online material is fine or not, is for them to consider how they feel when they see it. If they feel uncomfortable, that is their cue to quit that site or app. Their body is giving them a signal, like an inside siren that says, “Something’s wrong here, this isn’t right. This is confusing.” Let them know, when that happens, they can talk to you about what they saw.

Intervention is necessary if the Internet content is too mature for their age. There is no need to ask your child “why” they went on the site. Curiosity is a good thing…but it can have unintended consequences. You will have to help if the consequences are negative and make your child feel bad, awkward, scared or confused. It’s ok to talk about the material. Try to make it age appropriate. Ask someone in your support system how they would address your child’s concern if you are not exactly sure what to say. Ask a professional if your child seems to be emotionally stuck or you notice a change in behavior. Feel free to reach out to us for guidance.

The other parenting consideration is how to maintain parent-child and family relationships when everyone stays so busy with their computers, phones, iPads, game systems, etc. We can find ourselves as guilty as our children using our devices hour after hour. Face-to-face interactions and social life have been impacted by the digital world. It has been found that online interactions do not give us the tools needed for healthy personal development. Scheduling unplugged family time at least weekly is one way to stay connected as a family. In some households, limiting screen time either per day or per week helps establish healthier routines and develops social skills. Homework may need to be monitored more and more as schools are expecting work to be completed on a device.

Ideally, we should engage as much as possible with our child in real-time, live and in person. Go new places together, talk about our days, share meals, play games, etc. The goal is to stay connected. Our relationship with our child is the most important factor in their healthy growth and development. There is no doubt, though, that technology is here to stay. So, we must find ways to use it to our advantage, recognizing the need for boundaries and limits, and not lose sight of the importance of our relationships.

The Internet may have made parenting more challenging, but it also gives us as parents another tool to help teach safety to our children and to maintain family relationships.