Has It Changed the Dynamic for Better or for Worse?
In the years since cord-free phones became the norm, phones and technology have become so heavily entrenched into our society. At first, texting was a revelation. But with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, phones are not merely for socialising, they are our main source of information. For that reason, the internet is an invaluable resource for any parent and their growing children.
Regardless of the age you deem it appropriate for your child to have a phone, or access to social media, family dynamics are changing at an unprecedented level when they do have permanent and hourly access. But what do you think? Do you think the benefits of social media outweigh the associated risks?
According to a recent survey close to 70% of respondents said they believe benefits of technology outweigh the dangers, while only one in five (20.5%) disagreed. But what is most interesting is that the ‘dangers’ concerning parents, are not their child’s potential to be cyberbullied or to view inappropriate content, but rather the parent’s lack of control on what the child does online. In fact, 83.1% agreed that the very thought of their child using technology by themselves was more concerning than what they even did online.
By far, the biggest advantage of social media is the ability to connect families that no longer live together. Whether you are separated by countries, by borders, by seas, or by suburbs, social media is an invaluable tool to help us stay up to date with family. Scrolling through photos of new family members, or wishing your loved ones a ‘happy birthday’ on social media are vital to strengthening extended-family bonds.
But when phones are constantly being pulled out, or your little ones are begging to play a game on your phone, how do you grapple with making sure your children aren’t spending their lives glued to a screen? There are three ways to make sure that internet time is productive for your kids:
- Monitor internet usage
Set realistic time limits for your children. If they are spending more than two hours a day on their screens, suggest that they play outside for half an hour to counteract it or to allow them more screen time later. Recommended screen use depends on your children’s age, so be sure to make informed decisions on the limits you place on each child.
- Walk the walk
Your children look to you and mimic your habits, so make sure you are putting your phone to the side and monitoring your own internet usage. If you are always on your phone, your children will think that is acceptable and follow suit.
- Keep computers and phones out of bedrooms
To properly monitor your child’s online activity, have the computer in a common room such as the lounge room or office. By charging all handheld devices in your room at night time, you’ll be able to avoid your children staying up late playing on their phones.
Social media can help strengthen family bonds, so by implementing some simple guidelines, you can rest easy while your children explore their interests and strengthen their relationships online.
Gwen Mackey is passionate about learning development, technology and family dynamics. You can follow her on Twitter.