Whilst many of us are not in the position to be worried about our children’s exposure to these things just yet – concern over what our children have access to and with whom they are connecting online is a topic that will be common to all of us as time goes on.
We recently held a workshop designed to get us thinking about what is out there for kids online and ways in which we can ensure they use social media responsibly (which include apps, games, chat rooms, question-answer services, music sharing apps, etc etc ad infinitum). Rob gave us an overview of the sorts of services available and which ones are targeted at children as well as those used by kids but intended for a more mature audience. Danni gave us some practical advice on parental controls and how to establish routines with your children in sharing what they are accessing and keeping an open dialogue.
We also heard from Danni about discussions she has had with adolescents on these topics and how they feel about making social media choices. The importance of being ‘liked’ online was one topic that stood out, and the pressure this puts on young people is something the indeed deserves a lot more consideration. This all launched us into an in-depth discussion on the messages promoted to children through digital media and how we can harness this inevitable portal to the world as a force for positive communication and ideas sharing. One parent shared a lovely example from home of the household computer being situated in their living area.
The children can use the computer for programming (with the MIT online software – Scratch recommended) and select games and then they can share what they have designed and built with the adults – having fun being a teacher at the same time as having a healthy open dialogue about online experiences. This underlined for me the most important principle in keeping our kids safe in any walk of life as they get older – establishing mutual trust and ensuring we facilitate calm, two-way communication about all kinds of decisions they make.
If we start from our children’s very earliest days, to build a bond of trust, we can continue to open positive channels for them to come to us no matter what their questions. Part of this approach requires the adult to refrain from overt displays of anger at a child’s poor decisions. It may be that you give yourself space to calm down after misbehaviour before discussing things with your child, or perhaps you are able to hold it together and react calmly to most situations?
By creating family habits of openness, discussion of the real consequences of one’s actions, and a safe forum for children to reflect on their choices and behaviour, it stands to reason that our kids will feel safer to come to us. If they know that everyone gets it wrong sometimes, perhaps we can begin laying the groundwork for the types of parent/child relationships that will stand the test of adolescence and the invariable challenges our young people will navigate as they grow.
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This post was written by Emma