So that “Momo challenge” thing isn’t real—but the fact that parents need to be watching their kids’ online definitely is. Banning media and certain websites will not work. Why? Because the internet is constantly evolving and changing. And let’s face it: technology will play a significant role in the way they learn and communicate in their futures.
Here are the three things that I am doing to help my kids understand how to use technology.
1. Set time limits and stick to them.
At first, I was letting my nine-year-old use her internet-connected devices whenever she completed the things I needed her to finish, almost like a reward. When she started always choosing that reward, I decided I was doing things wrong. I really didn’t like the idea of her not wanting to do all of the things that make being a kid fun! So we talked about it. A lot.
At first, I took away all tech, cold turkey. It wasn’t fun for her, and she felt like she was the “only one” who couldn’t use it. After a little while, she remembered that she loves to read and color and play hide and seek with her brother, and I remembered how little she is.
Now she is allowed to use a device for more random spurts of time. Sometimes I let her use it for five minutes, but sometimes she can play a game or watch a slime tutorial for 20 minutes. I try not to let it be longer than that.
2. You do NOT have to stand over their shoulders, but you do need to be present.
Make sure your kids are somewhere you can see and hear them while they are spending time online. Check in on them, and ask them what they are doing. If your kid has a favorite YouTuber, you should know who it is. If your kids like to play a particular game, try it too.
Let your kids know you are interested in what they find interesting! When you do this, they are more likely to share things with you as they get older.
3. Have a real talk about what it means to be safe online.
This is an offshoot of the “stranger danger talk,” except it’s the online safety talk. Chatting is an option on nearly every site our kids are using today. Please tell your kids how important it is never to give information about themselves to anyone online. However, let them know that if they do make a mistake, they can tell you. The last thing you want them to do is to keep a secret that could harm them.
Let them know that if they see or hear something they don’t understand, YOU are available to help them and that you won’t be mad at them for telling you.
Our kids navigate tough stuff every day. They are bombarded with things that a lot of us didn’t have to deal with when we were little. The most important thing that any of us can do for our kids is to communicate with them, on their level, consistently. Play, talk, read, sing, build and every once in a while, watch that cool new unboxing video with them, too.