Surviving (and Thriving) in a Digital World
Each generation has its own challenges and strengths but perhaps nowhere is the contrast more noticeable than with technology. The current generation of kids (born 1995 - current) are described as the iGeneration because they are ‘digital natives’. These are the kids and young adults who have never known a world without a smartphone, texting or social media. These are the kids that often have parents scrambling to keep up with the latest app or gaming platform or digital trend.
Here are a few tips on how to help your kids survive – and even thrive – in a digital world.
Set limits early
Smartphones, laptops, handheld devices and gaming consoles provide hours of stimulation and entertainment, but before you hand your child a phone and let them loose, it’s a good idea to set some clear boundaries. How much screen time is appropriate each day? What apps and sites are they allowed to or not allowed to access? Do you expect to have all the passwords to their accounts or are you happy for them to manage it themselves? Where does the device live at night time? By discussing these issues before your child is in possession of a device you can avoid the hassle of trying to draw lines in the sand after the event and save both of you unnecessary angst.
Use devices in the family living area
Experts agree that keeping devices out of kids’ bedrooms is a great idea. Not only can the pull of the latest game or just sending one more text message rob kids of sleep, keeping devices in the communal living area reduces the possibility of kids making digital mistakes. Considering a child’s decision-making capabilities aren’t fully developed until they are about 25 years old (yes, that late!), it’s too easy for kids to make poor choices with technology. Make it harder for them to mess up by being that parent who is looking over their shoulder occasionally.
Talk, talk and talk some more
New apps and games and social media platforms are being released almost daily. For most parents, it’s almost impossible to keep with what is available and on trend this week, let alone understand the ins and outs of each option. The more you can talk to your kids about what is happening online, the more you will able to speak into that space in their lives. Ask them about the latest trends. What apps are people downloading? What games have just been released? Which social media platform is the place to be right now?
Then do some background searching for yourself and look for parent reviews on the game or app or social media platform. A great website to check out is https://www.commonsensemedia.org/. They have parent reviews for thousands of movies, games and apps.
Tech designers don’t always have kids’ best interests at heart, so make sure you check out private messaging options and whether kids will be able to communicate with other players while online. Keep talking with your kids about cyber safety and the risks of being part of an online community and alter settings on devices if necessary.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
Although some parents might long for the days when kids didn’t have such easy access to screens, the reality is that for most families technology is a challenge that isn’t going away anytime soon. Rather than constantly fight against the pull of technology, why not turn the tables and join in the fun. Is there an app or game that your child really likes? If so, is it possible for you to play together? A lot of the battle royale games like Fortnite and Apex Legends allow users to play in teams, and although your teenager might not be thrilled at the idea of mum or dad joining them on the battlefield, they might just surprise you and like it a lot…even if they don’t show it on the outside.
The digital world is here to stay and it’s up to us to help our kids navigate that world safely. Parents need to stay informed, set good boundaries and keep talking to their kids about technology and its impact – both good and bad – in our lives. For more information about iGeneration and the challenges they face, check out the links below.