It is a brave new world that we live in, and the rules we had growing up, definitely do not apply anymore. Children today have way more access than we ever did, and it can be hard to understand their world. My husband will worry about how much time our children watch YouTube. While it's definitely also a concern of mine, we have to understand that they don't sit and watch shows on TV like we used to. YouTube IS their TV.
Establishing rules and boundaries that make sense for all involved parties can be extremely difficult to navigate, so we have created an easy to follow guide to help you through these choices and decisions.
1. Do not be afraid to set limits on screen time.
As a parent, this is one of the greatest bargaining chips you have. Allowing a small amount of "free" screen time, and then the ability to earn more is a perfect balance. There is nothing more satisfying than a text from my daughter asking if she can have more time on her phone. It's at this point I can ask her to earn more time by cleaning her room, doing household chores, going outside to play for an hour, read a book, and a ton of other things.
2. Monitor, Monitor, and then Monitor some more.
If you are not regularly checking up on what your child is watching, reading, texting, chatting, playing, etc, you are doing it WRONG. Kids do not have fully developed brains. They don't understand some of the consequences of their actions, especially on social media. As you monitor their activity, you can help correct them when they make poor decisions, and hopefully prevent a larger issue later. Make sure your child knows that you will be checking on them regularly. It is not something they should ever feel they can have privacy on. This also helps to reiterate that NOTHING is ever completely private on a device.
3. Give the internet a bedtime
A great thing my parents used to tell me... "nothing good happens after midnight." Man, were they SO VERY RIGHT. Don't tell them I told you. When parents are asleep, the internet should also be asleep. Have them turn in their devices to you each night, or shut down internet access for the devices at a certain time. You can also use screen monitoring software to make sure they can't even open certain apps after a certain time.
4. Lead by example.
If you show your kids proper media etiquette they will be able to follow your example. Do you check your phone during family time? Do you post WAY too much, or things that you maybe shouldn't? Like, when your child says they don't want their picture taken, do you take it and post it anyway? Doing these things will show your children that they are acceptable to you. When they decide to take an unflattering picture of their friend and post it, and that friend gets made fun of or bullied, that is a consequence of that action. Things that may seem harmless to you, can really teach your children very bad habits. Watch what you do, because your children are definitely watching.
5. Encourage active participation.
There are so many things your children can use a device to do. Help them explore beyond just watching YouTube videos of kids opening toys! Show them how they can use their device to make their own stop-motion video, or how they can use it as a field journal to record scientific discoveries on a nature walk. Download a drawing app that can allow them to use tons of brushes and colors and see what they can create! Explain all of the ways technology can augment things going on in their real lives to create a more engaging or interactive experience.
Technology does not have to be the bad guy. If you establish some ground rules, it really can help children discover the world around them.