Just as we strive to keep our kids safe every time they cross the street or go to the playground, it’s up to us as parents to keep them safe online, too. From classic common sense to the era’s latest parental control apps like Qustodio, read on for 10 ways to manage healthy digital diets for the whole family.

photo: Hal Gatewood via Unsplash

1. Model a well-balanced tech lifestyle.
Like everything else we teach our kids, we start by showing them: how to walk, how to use a spoon, and—as we take photo number 5,428 in a constant chronicle of their young lives—how to use tech. If we never bring our phones to the dinner table, we may avoid future power struggles about screen-free spaces. If we step away from checking email when we know it’s time to power down for the day, they will see how much we value connecting “in real life” and will have loads of practice when it’s time for them to manage their own “online” and “IRL” lives.

2. Talk about why screen time needs to be monitored.
When we expect our kids to make their beds or clear the table, we are teaching the personal responsibility they will need to lead independent and organized lives. If they understand the dangers associated with tech use, they may be more motivated to maintain a safe online space as well—with privacy settings, thinking before they post, and doing their best not to let online activities hamper their physical activity or emotional health.

photo: Tim Gouw via Unsplash

3. Come to an agreement on the amount of screentime they’ll have.
After adding up watching shows, using the computer for homework, as well as any phone, app, or game use, decide together what a healthy amount of screentime might be. For guidance, turn to parental control app Qustodio, a true hub of data and info., via both an online dashboard and Parents’ App, that makes it easy to understand what kids are up to on various devices and help them make smart choices—a skill they always need IRL too. Rather than just preventing or logging screen time use, Qustodio puts you in the driving seat with various cross-platform functionalities while helping you advocate for an open and healthy digital lifestyle for the whole family.

Learn more about Qustodio and download the app for free here

4. Give your kids agency—and accountability.
Setting rules for and as a family also ensures your kids feel part of the process. Go a step further and outsource some of the rule making: download a digital contract that everyone in the family can sign with a sense of ownership and abide by if rules are broken.

photo: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

5. Keep up your digital fluency.
Check in with the latest findings and age-appropriate recommendations from the World Health Organization about sedentary behaviors like screen time. Discover the content that can add value to our children’s lives when they are online with the help of trusted organizations like Common Sense Media. And just as you have an eye on the horizon for your child’s next developmental milestones, think about what your elementary school kid might be interested in as a tween (we suggest reading educator Ana Homayoun’s Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World.)

6. Remind them of natural—and irreversible—consequences.
The internet doesn’t come with a giant “delete” option, and kids should know what might result from conducting online lives unchecked. Share the news when Harvard acceptances are revoked because of poor or offensive online choices. Talk about it. As your kids start using social media especially, see if they open up about their own online etiquette or gauge their thoughts about what their friends post.

photo: Patricia Prudente via Unsplash

7. Decide which apps you’re comfortable with them using.
Maybe you’re OK with YouTube, but not TikTok. Or vice versa. Either way, be explicit about which apps your kids may or may not be allowed to use. Qustodio also makes it easy to stay up to speed on what your kids are doing online (you can even see exactly what they are searching for and watching on YouTube, too).

As parents we often love data, and that is just what Qustodio delivers, from reports on internet activity to child location capability. Qustodio also gives added peace of mind with the ability to set limits on games and apps, monitor social media use, block inappropriate content in real-time, all while providing the talking points and questions to ask to maintain open communication about device use.

Learn more about Qustodio and download the app for free here

 

photo: Alexander Dummer via Unsplash

8. Continue to watch with them.
Just as our kids learn from watching us, we can learn a lot from watching them. Sit down together for their current favorite movie or check in on homework. See how they navigate online, what websites they visit, and what they want to watch. You may learn something new while continuing to encourage that spirit of openness.

9. Check in with other parents.
As kids conduct increasingly independent lives at school and with friends, you can expect them to be one step (or several) ahead of your own experiences—and device-use is a whole new frontier. Talking to parents, especially with older kids, about what they have dealt with in the digital landscape (i.e. “finsta” accounts) will help us meet our kids where they’ll need us.

 

photo: Bruno Nascimento via Unsplash

10. Don’t forget a digital detox!
Unplug! Go screen free! Get outside! Encourage it as a family and individually. Be it a certain hour of the day or day of the week, make it a habit to disconnect in order to reconnect.

Learn more about Qustodio and download the app for free here

— Jennifer Massoni Pardini