We received lots of practical advice from the counsellor at ISKR, Suzy Cheal. She explained that, in her experience the biggest issue with technology is when it becomes an alternative to interaction between parents and children. Or when boundaries aren't set early enough, e.g. children are allowed to play video games that are not appropriate for their age, or parents let children watch tv until late at night because it is easier than insisting that children go to bed.
General rules she proposed:
- Technology should serve the family and bring you closer; it should not make your family its servant and keep you apart.
- Parents are their children's first and best teachers. Model appropriate technology and media behaviour for your kids.
- Using cell phones, computers, televisions and other electronic devices is a privilege for kids, not a right.
- Set a family media policy. Decide who can use what forms of technology, what constitutes appropriate content for each one, when and where it is acceptable to use each one, and how you will monitor usage. Make sure everyone in the family knows the policy.
- Establish appropriate consequences, both positive and negative, for technology and media usage. Communicate those consequences clearly and often to your kids.
- Establish "technology-free" zones and times in your home when you all "unplug" and concentrate on talking to each other and enjoying each other's company.
- Help your children achieve balance in their lives by encouraging them to stay physically active, enjoy reading, and relax and have fun without electronics.
- Take advantage of resources that "watch" media content, and use them to help you decide when you should say "Yes" or say "No" to your children's media/technology use.
- Talk with other parents. Let them know what your family technology and media policy is and ask how they handle those issues in their homes. Support each other in helping kids use technology and media safely and appropriately.
Advice for children up to 5 years old:
- The American Association of Paediatricians recommends no screen time for children under 2 on the basis that they have seen no studies that prove conclusively that it aids development.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours a day or less for children over the age of 2. Practice "appointment" television. Use your TV guide, and decide in advance what's good to watch.
- Pay attention to the messages you model - stay off the cell phone and other electronic devices when you're driving or engaged in other activities that deserve your full attention.
Advice for 6-9 years old
Content blockers and filters are great tools to use with younger kids. They allow you more control over where they go and what they do online. A content blocker sites with explicit material or limits a child's search to a predetermined set of sites. A content filter scans sites and images and blocks those that contain certain words, key phrases or content.
Look at games or sites with children
- If your children has mobile internet access, it will be more difficult to monitor and control his or her internet use.
- Nothing can replace involvement and supervision by adults. Keep monitoring how your kids use the internet on a regular basis.
Next post on TV watching and internet safety!