You are a busy parent and your kids are starting to use the internet. Digital literacy has become an essential part of a child’s development now more than ever, but what are you going to do to make sure they use the Internet positively and securely?
From filtering tools to important conversations, here’s a checklist to see if you are doing all you can to ensure your child’s screen usage is safe and healthy.
1. Educate them when they’re little
Don’t wait till they turn into sullen teens intent on keeping their own privacy. Teach your young kids now about a balanced approach towards technology. Keep an open and honest conversation with your child about the positive and negative impact of screen time.
Instil in them good habits for self-control. Like everything else, there will come a time where it will be impossible for you to monitor your child. So before that time comes, you will need to perhaps be less militant and give them the space to learn to make the right decisions.
2. Talk About Stranger Danger
Children need to be instilled with proper internet etiquette and learn to be diligent about what is being posted. They need to understand that anything they post online, will forever be part of their internet footprint. Where possible, try to ensure that your child’s privacy setting is set to the maximum. Once they have reached a certain age, talk to them about the existence of sex offenders and the possibilities of them hiding behind different identities in social networking sites and online games, among others.
They should be confident enough to know to leave the website and inform a trusted adult immediately if they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried. Parents who want to find out how to talk to their children about online safety can look at good tips on the NSPCC (UK) and ITU sites.
3. Useful and Age-Appropriate Choices
Don’t let it be a free-for-all surfing experience for your children. Guide them into exploring the side of the internet that is useful and encourages resourcefulness. Show them the very best of the internet, and how to use technology to gather information. Programmes such as Google Classroom provides opportunities for students to communicate and collaborate in ways that were previously undreamt of.
Your child could learn to be resourceful not only through educational materials but through games as well. Kim Komando writes about the hidden benefits of Minecraft, a popular computer game, for USA Today: “One overlooked value of most strategy-based video games is resource management. The player has a finite amount of resources at any given time and needs to decide wisely how to use them most effectively.”
Although your child, even you, may not notice at the time, these skills are essential for later on in life. It is your role as a parent, to ensure that technology is rightly utilised.
Organisations like Common Sense Media lists reviews about age-appropriate apps, games and programmes to guide you in making the best choices for your children.
4. Technology together, not apart
Get them used to the idea that technology is something for the family to do together too, not just a solitary affair.
Studies have shown that engaging technology together is a wonderful way to bond with the family. Whether it is having a dance-off on your Playstation4 or working together to deliver a variety of dishes with Overcooked, your children would love to see the fun side of you. If you are in for some downtime, perhaps you could stream a movie on Netflix that the whole family can enjoy together?
If bursting the internet quota is a worry, families could opt for a plan like MaxisONE Prime which allows them to rest easy with the magic word – unlimited. Unlimited mobile internet for the whole family (principal and all shared lines), all under one easily manageable package. As the average Malaysian spends a total of RM229 on data, with MaxisONE Prime, they can save up to RM42 per month*.
*depending on size of household
5. Role Models: Parents to promise too
Even as adults, we may have moments of weakness when we spend a little too much time scrolling our Instagram feed. Unfortunately, unless you lock yourself up in the bathroom, you most likely have little pairs of eyes observing you. According to Anya Kamenetz, author of The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, “Managing your own use is crucial to successfully helping your kids self-manage.” It starts with having a family agreement on what is a reasonable amount of time to be spent on our screens, for everyone. Some families go to the extent of signing a pledge which could be something your family could do too.
6. Recognise behavioural changes
There are plenty of guidelines out there on how much screen time a child should get. However, we need to recognise that every child is different. As a parent, it is important to watch out for changes in your child’s behaviour. Do they experience bedtime and wake up battles? Do they suffer from mood swings, is there any loss in appetite or any sudden weight gain? These could be signs that they are spending too much time with their devices. Speak to your pediatrician about it if necessary. As a rule of thumb, screen time should not affect sleep, studies, family time and exercise time. You could have the option to control your kids’ internet time by assigning internet quotas such as MaxisONE Prime DataPool.
7. Tools for filtering and monitoring
You can support your child’s learning with the right content. But with such a wide and scary variety of websites and information out there, how can you be sure your child is surfing safely? Statistics show that a low percentage of parents installed parental control software because 59 per cent of them never heard of such software.
But there are many programmes available that can assist you in monitoring your child’s usage, such as MaxisONE Prime’s KidNanny. The only parental control for cyber safety you’ll need, KidNanny allows you to filter inappropriate websites and ensure that your child can only access family-friendly apps. You can also manage and track screen time and remotely prevent unwanted access to your child’s device.
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