Navigating screentime, cyber safety and device use is akin to a constantly-shifting obstacle course for modern parents. So, how do we make sure our kids stay safe and happy in the face of this digital world? Read on for 7 cyber safety tips for parents:
1. How much time online is ok?
This is the million-dollar question, but unfortunately there’s no magic number! In terms of how much time kids should spend on their devices per day, the answer depends on a number of factors.
The child’s age, maturity and sensitivity levels are all things parents should consider – in addition to the type of content they are consuming, who they are interacting with online and whether the interactions are negative or positive.
Observing their current behaviour and general wellbeing is a great start when considering whether their current levels of time spent on devices may be too much. Each child is different, but here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding how much screentime per day is ok for your child:
- Does their behaviour or mood seem negatively affected after screentime?
- Is screentime getting in the way of homework?
- Is screentime reducing the time they’re spending exercising, being outdoors or doing other things that are good for their health?
- Is your child’s screentime affecting their sleep?
- Does screentime seem to negatively affect your child’s confidence?
- Are they open and honest with you about their activities online?
2. Do your research
While it can be hard to find the time, between getting through the 47 loads of laundry per week your kids seem to pile up, staying on top of your work/emails, and everything else involved in being a modern parent, it’s important to keep a close eye on what your kids are engaging in online.
Ask them about what games they’re playing online, learn what content they’re consuming (whether that’s YouTube vids, books they’ve downloaded, etc) and find out which apps they’ve downloaded on their devices. Then, check it all out yourself, from downloading the apps to playing the games (yep, you might need a gaming lesson from your 9-year-old!).
This strategy can help you make informed decisions about what you are happy for your child to engage in online.
3. Have age-appropriate conversations
It may feel a little awkward to broach, but making sure your kids are aware of the presence of online dangers, such as inappropriate content and untrustworthy people, is crucial. Use your judgement as to what age you feel like these conversations are necessary for your individual child.
4. The importance of keeping details private
It’s super important that you educate your kids about keeping all personal information – such as their full name, address, phone number, school, social media accounts etc – private from people they interact with online who they do not know well, and trust, in real life.
5. Set a plan with your family
Sit down together as a family at a time when everyone is relaxed, and together work out what your ‘house rules’ are for device use and screentime. If you involve your children in the process of setting rules, they’ll be much more likely to observe them.
Some things to consider setting boundaries around:
- How much screentime is allowed per day (and is this different on weekdays and weekends?)
- What needs to be done each day (homework, chores, soccer practice, etc) before kids are allowed to use their devices?
- What time do devices need to be turned off at night before bed?
- What games and apps are your kids allowed to use?
- What situations do your kids need to tell you about if they encounter them online (e.g. someone asking for their phone number, being sent inappropriate photos, someone being mean)?
- What will happen if these house rules are broken?
6. Keep communicating with your kids
Our childrens’ online worlds are constantly changing – so it’s important to stay in the loop with your kids’ activities as much as you can. Keeping the lines of communication open is key.
Rather than seeming disapproving, which can cause kids to clam up, taking a curious approach can help you stay involved. Ask your offspring what game they’re playing (or even if you can join in, if you’re game!), or which mates they’ve been chatting with through texts/DMs/other apps lately. The trick here is to toe the fine line between interested and prying! Hopefully, your children will feel like they can mention any issues to you (cyberbullying, for example) if they do pop up.
7. Seek help if needed
Feeling overwhelmed by navigating your kids’ screentime? Remember there are plenty of excellent resources available if you need them. We recommend visiting https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents which is a great source of information and tips for managing your family’s online habits.
Meerilinga also run regular workshops supporting parents. Please contact our Parenting Facilitator, Belynda Smith, at Belynda.firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about our upcoming parenting workshops.
Here at Meerilinga, we facilitate numerous parenting services and courses. Want to learn more about how you can help create positive childhood for your children? Click here.