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Being a parent in today’s digital age can be daunting. From too much screen time to cyber bullying it’s becoming harder and harder to navigate technology when it comes to our children. Luckily for us, author and entrepreneur, Katrina German, has tips on how to raise tech savvy kids.

Where to start

It can be very overwhelming for parents. Make sure to keep an open dialogue with your kids. As the child gets older, ask regular questions about what they are seeing and participating in online. This gives everyone an opportunity to talk about important life lessons like sexuality, self-esteem, cyber bullying and the changing face of friendship.

Be sure to talk to your kids about:

  • The permanence of posting something to social media
  • Always thinking critically about what they’re seeing: asking “What are they trying to sell me”
  • How are social media platforms using your data
  • The importance of finding ways to be creative and interact with others offline
  • The advantages and disadvantages of online friendships

Is screen time created equal?

It is recommended that parents limit screen time to less than two hours for children age 5 or under. But they are more flexible for older children and teenagers, focusing more on screen-time activities rather than setting time limits. There’s plenty of research suggesting that the type of activity, the content, and the social context all matter. For example, there’s a difference between watching a movie alone and watching, then talking about the movie with others, OR between playing video games and doing research online for school.

When it comes to screen time it’s also important to note that we need to show our children proper phone etiquette and set usage boundaries for the whole family. It’s hard to enforce rules around usage if they see their parents constantly glued to their devices. We all need to disconnect sometimes and children learn by watching parents practice what they preach.

Tech at restaurants

There is no question that using a device to keep your kids calm is an incredibly helpful parenting tool. The question is, what are you teaching your child about eating out? If you can bring other toys, colouring books etc. as a distraction, it still gives your kid something to do but they can still interact with others at the table and learn etiquette about how to behave (rather than checking out of the experience altogether through a device). That being said, we’ve all “been there and done that,” and I’ve offered my children devices just to get through the meal, when the games didn’t work out.
The trick is to make sure that you are modelling good behaviour and using the time at a restaurant to eat and interact, rather than looking at your own phone.

Tech in education

There are so many ways to be involved in a career in technology, from analyzing a user experience, to raising money, to digital marketing. Not all of these careers will involve coding and will certainly need the other foundational skills. However, coding (and coding-like skill activities) should be introduced to children early, so that so that they can have a foundation in the logic of coding. Coding languages change regularly, so teaching your kids a new way to think (rather than a specific language) is also helpful. A note – we need more young women to enter into careers in the tech. There is an overwhelming underrepresentation of women in one of the most influential areas shaping our future and we want everyone to be contributing to the creation of our future.

Dealing with cyber bullying

Most classrooms are now attempting to be pro-active when it comes to cyber-bullying. The first step is to educate the kids about what types of activities are inappropriate versus not, and the permanence of social media posting. Parents should also be talking to their kids about their personal boundaries and continuously bringing up these topics (not just mentioning it once).

There is such a range in the levels of seriousness for cyber-bullying. If the “infraction” is light, show your kids the etiquette of asking their friend to remove the offensive post. If it is more serious, ask the school to help by intervening. Let your kids know the seriousness of some of these issues by explaining that something they may think is funny can actually be illegal (if there is anything remotely sexual involving a person under the age of 18) and police could become involved, criminal records could be opened, etc.

If you feel that your teenager is not being forthcoming with their online activities, insist that they install apps like Bark that can monitor their activities while still maintaining their privacy. As a parent, you will get alerts if there are activities like sexting or cyber-bullying happening.

For more tips, be sure to watch the video clip above.