It can be hard to understand why young people feel it’s so important to reply instantly to a message on WhatsApp, maintain their Snapchat streak, or spend so much time online.
Parents worry about how much time their children spend online, what they’re doing and whether they’re safe and if they’re suffering from a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out).
Technology needs boundaries and responsible adults have to set them, but children also need to be able to socialise with their friends online and have fun on the devices that are defining the 21st Century.
It’s important to try to see the digital world through your child’s eyes. If it feels as though you are constantly criticising the technology they love, they are never going to talk to you if they need your help, or something goes wrong. It’s also much tougher to guide them through the digital world if you can’t empathise with their feelings about it. Here are our tips:
Look interested, even if you’re not
Find something for child to explain or show you, even if you’re still not sure what the attraction is. The point is sharing their enthusiasm. Don’t be the parent that says ‘what a waste of time’.
Remember this is the social generation
Chances are your children have a large network of friends all over the world, even if they may never have met many of them.
Parent handout: Understanding your child’s online life
Channel the United Nations and negotiate!
It’s really hard for children to put down their device or turn off their game the minute you ask them to. They’re emotionally involved, so instantly pulling the plug can be hard. Negotiate a finish time and give them a 10 minute warning, then five, if you need to.
Don’t weaponise their smartphone
It’s really tempting to take their mobile away if they do something wrong. Their phone is very personal and important to them – it’s their connection with their friends and taking it away will mean they are out of the conversation.
Love my tech, love your tech
Talk to them about why you like technology and what it helps you to do so that the conversation in your family is positive. That way they get the message that you ‘get it’ and love it too and you’re all making sure it doesn’t take over family time.
Be a guide and a participant
Try to find things you think your child will enjoy online. It gets harder as they get older but if you can recommend the occasional app or YouTuber, or mention a funny video you saw on Twitter, you’ll get lots of Brownie points. Speak to their teachers about interesting apps or games that your child could download.
About Parent Zone
Parent Zone is the official parents’ representative on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and chairs the UKCISS Digital Resilience working group. Parent Zone is devoted to providing expert information to families, schools and family professionals. It creates, curates and checks the best available advice and information on all of the issues that are caused or amplified by the internet.