I just finished having lunch with a friend whose 7 year old daughter began asking her “the questions” last night. You know the ones. The questions began innocently enough, and with each answer my friend gave her daughter, another question arose. My sweet friend offered just enough answers to satisfy this precious 7 year old’s curiosity without giving her more information than she needed or could handle at this time. And that’s what a good parent does. We provide a strong foundation for our kids by educating and equipping them with the knowledge they need to grow into responsible, upstanding citizens. We create boundaries and guidelines to help keep them physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy and safe. And with each new stage of development, those boundaries and guidelines change. But our parenting remains steadfast. The same holds true in parenting our kids to use technology responsibly. The rules I put into place and the things I want them to know about technology are quite different for my 7 year old than for my 15 year old. And while the rules and boundaries will change, my parenting will not. For example, when it comes to technology, devices are not allowed at the dinner table. Period. That won’t change. All devices are charged overnight in my bathroom. Period. I know the 7 year old will fall asleep, but the teenager will be on the phone all night if she’s allowed to keep it in her room. Even if she doesn’t intend to be, group texts seem to blow up after midnight for some reason, and the draw to see what’s going on and not be left out is just too intense. Another rule we have is that there must be a balance between screen time and face-to-face time. We will work in the yard as a family or play board games or make dinner together. Not just because those are all healthy family activities, but because it forces us to put our devices down for a while as well. My kids know that at any time, I will pick up their devices and look through them. Not because I don’t trust my kids, but I want to be sure they are safe. What sites are they visiting? Do they know everyone on their contact list? Is there anyone sending messages that make them feel uncomfortable? Honestly, I’m paying for the phone, so technically, it’s mine anyway. While I wouldn’t talk to my little one about sexting as in depth as I would to my teenager, I would give enough information so that she knows what she should do if an inappropriate message ever pops up. And with my teen, well, that’s a pretty straightforward conversation. So, the information you share and the boundaries you set for your children will vary depending upon their age and maturity level. The one thing that shouldn’t vary is the consistency with which we parent them through each stage. Definitely not an easy task, but one well worth the effort.
Neptune Navigate Blog
Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.