Five Tips for Not Losing Your Kids (or Yourself) to the Digital World
By Stacey Ross
If you are a parent in the digital age, chances are you have implemented some online safeguards, along with some smart guidelines for your kids to follow. Have you ever worried, though, that you will "lose" your kids if they become too attached in one form or another to their digital worlds? As we all know, the lure of the digital jungle can make hours seem like minutes and can quickly chip away at precious family time!
The following are some refreshing approaches to help you explore ways to not become too distracted or overly-invested digitally, which is really a personal judgment call based on your individual outlook or situation.
Use parental controls
Remind your kids that owning mobile devices, etc. is a privilege that is not to be taken lightly. Many parents contend that they "trust" their kids, but, well, um, that can result in a lot of leeway! Look into ways that can empower you to have more access and involvement with the goings-on of your kids and how they use technology. You can block access, limit their friends, apply filters, and so on. These little steps are so worth it and can vary depending on the age and/or maturity of your kids.
Get the kids outside!
TeachThought.com provides a ‘How To Play Outdoors’ refresher (seriously!), which is a reminder of a past that is hopefully still etched in every kid's childhood memory bank. The post is also a check-list for parents, giving them step-by-step directions on how to get their kids moving. Sure, all-night Dance Dance Revolution marathons will be unforgettable, but let's get real!
Fadra, founder of the blog All Things Fadra, has the spirit: “I’m excited to be working as a contributor for the National Wildlife Federation Be Out There e-book due out later this summer. I’ll be specifically writing about balancing screen time and green time and how you can use technology to get your kids (and YOU) outside and spending time together.” Genius!
Stay engaged in your kids' social world!
When we make our carpooling arrangements and sleepover plans, sometimes we use the convenience of texting and emails to communicate with our kids and other parents, so much so that we run the risk of avoiding human contact with those who make our kids' worlds go around.
Similarly, my online bud Jeff at CrazyDadLife.com has discovered that many parents engage in less face-to-face interaction due to the convenience of texting, remote communication, and digital to-do lists. “There are many times,” Jeff shares, “that I find myself at one of my daughter’s games or other events and have no idea who these mysterious people are behind the email addresses. My wife and I often say to each other ‘Is that so-and-so’s mom over there?’”
I honestly believe that when we put our gadgets away we are compelled to be more personable and courteous. And more present!
Shut off your gadgets at the dinner table!
When I asked for my colleagues' pet peeves regarding smartphone use, a Facebook friend of mine piped in something to the tune of, “They would play throughout the meal if we would let them. Turn off all electronics and be together as a family and talk!”
In a post on my blog I share tips on finding creative ways to prioritize family meals together. I was shocked to read that a UNICEF study found that the United States ranked 23rd out of 25 countries in the percentage of children who eat the main meal of the day with their parents. If this is the case, then by all means, let's try to make our meals electronic-free!
Encourage meaningful online experiences!
It’s important that our kids' digital experiences are (for the most part) kept as meaningful, enriching and positive as possible. Their online social lives should reflect rewarding connections and relationships that help them grow, rather than luring them into hours of texting, social media and video gaming. Parents have legitimate concerns about their kids wasting too much time on activities that will not necessarily help them developmentally.
We need to monitor our "digital native" children's online behavior and have them update us on what their digital world is doing to help them succeed in life. It's also advisable to check in on our kids and engage with them online, just enough so they remember that we are also part of the digital world! Deep down they will appreciate it. At least I'd like to think so!
Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.