By: Matthew Constant, Ed. D.
Parental instincts concerning keeping their children safe are the same in the digital space as they are in real life.
1. Know where your children are.
Without boundaries, kids will definitely test the waters and, in some cases, swim out into unchartered territory. Take the digital device from them periodically and check the history. What sites have they visited? One smart rule is to advise kids that you, as parent, are the only one that can clear the history. Therefore, if you logon to the browsing history of the sites your children are visiting and you see little or no information, then it is likely your child has cleared it. And, if it is cleared it likely means they didn’t want you to see where they have been.
2. Set limits on play.
Kids do not need unlimited time on their digital devices. Set limits on how long they have the device in hand. Depending on the need and the potential of using it as an educational tool, each family will need to negotiate the time limit. If your child is using a digital device during the school day, limiting the night computer time is definitely a good idea if at all possible.
3. Be present.
Allowing children to take digital devices into their rooms with doors closed could potentially be a worrisome decision. As a parent, institute a rule whereby kids use the digital device in an open room. Look over the shoulder periodically to be sure what’s going on is what should be going on.
4. Be social. As kids begin to enter the Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook worlds, it is important parents monitor this activity. The best way to do this is for parents to be “friends” with their children. That means that you, parents, create accounts for these applications. A good rule for your kids is saying “Yes, you can have that account as long as you add me as a friend.”
5. Check in. Talk to your kids about their online activities. When they finish a session with a digital device and put it down, ask them what they were doing. Get them talking about their online life. Oftentimes we want to play “gotcha” with our kids rather than having a simple and honest conversation. Talking goes a long way.