It’s that time of the year again and although it is the season of family, joy, and giving, if you have a child of a certain age it can be a time of technology anxiety. Maybe your child already has a personal device, be it a cell phone, IPad, or lap top, but everyone knows that one device is never enough for a child. Especially if their friends have every device under the sun, it becomes a point competition for kids in who can collect the most gadgets. So, even if your child has one device, it is inevitable that this holiday season they will ask for more.
More can mean a lot of things. More can be more technology, more data, or more freedom with their technology usage. No matter what “more” means for you and yours, it is important to dive into the pool in the same way that you would handle anything new: through education. If you are going to allow your kids the “more” they want this year, educate yourself and then them.
Let’s say they are asking for another device this year. Be it a cell phone, tablet or computer, the key to education here is how to navigate the internet. Once they have access to any of these devices they are exposed to the world. It is important to make your child aware that when they access the internet they have a LOT of power, and in the words of the late Stan Lee: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Responsibility needs to be focused in terms of protecting themselves and others in the online world. They will have the ability to reach millions of people and access archives of information and they have to know the weight of that power and the immense nature of that responsibility.
If this seems daunting, don’t let it become overwhelming. My philosophy is to be as open as possible and make this an entire family discussion. It is important to bring the facts to the proverbial table and let your child(ren) know that once they have access to the internet they have adult-like responsibility to be aware, cautious, even weary of people that contact them that they do not know. Not everyone is as friendly as they seem. A harsh reality, yes, but one they must be comfortable with if they are given this privilege.
Another popular item that your kids could be craving this gift giving season is video games. Now, very much the same rules apply here in that opening up the video game world can lead to strangers contacting them posing as “friends of friends” or adults saying that they are kids. It is your position to educate your kids on these realities and be very aware that they must proceed with caution. In addition, another risk is that they will spend countless mindless hours in front of a screen living in another world…which we all know is not very healthy.
With all of these scenarios, if you are going to give your kids access, you must educate them and yourself and be open and honest about limitations and expectations. For example, when you tell them that it is time to have screen free time or come sit down for dinner, they will not resist, or the privilege will be taken away. It is easy for parents to so easily give up their parental control when their kids start using technology, but hold your ground, stay strong, and maintain your stance on digital safety.