We live in an era where children are “Digital Natives” – let’s face it, technology feels like it was designed for them. So, as caring parents, it’s important for us to keep up with the digital age. But how? In order to help children have healthy usage of digital tools, we as parents must assume our role in actively teaching these skills.
Digital devices, media, virtual learning and online-mediated interactions are an integral part of our world today. The benefits that the digital age offers us are endless, if used appropriately.
Children know how to upload and download stuff, edit photos, search for content, and fix grandma’s phone when she deleted all its apps. They navigate digital tools like fish in water to such an extent that it’s common to hear parents bemoan “My kid knows so much about technology that I feel I could never keep up”.
It’s great to see how children seem naturally born with these skills, but it also might be a little scary. There is no doubt that bad stuff can happen to kids with unsupervised use of technology, from being exposed to inappropriate content to inappropriate people. But the solution is not necessarily taking away their devices or banning an app. That can be kind of like saying cars are dangerous, so we’re going to completely stay away from cars. Instead, we can better understand technology, relate to it, connect with it and, teach them how to use it.
How to do our homework?
Being absolutely updated about every single app, game or social network our children could have access to is impossible. But, there are a few tips we could use to create a more conscious digital age navigation.
Critical thinking in the digital age
Children navigate the digital age innocently. Teaching them critical thinking to analyze certain situations that may arise in this environment will benefit their use of technology. Having a talk with your children about the importance of privacy and the dangers the internet has is key.
Children need to know that just as they can benefit from the internet, there are also dangers that they can detect and avoid themselves. Teaching them they can analyze and make decisions, guided by you as their parent, will help them throughout their life.
Taking care of the landscape in the digital age
As we mentioned before, cultivating critical thinking in your children is fundamental. But, just as we must promote their independence and responsibility, it is also our duty to take care of the content they have access to. Doing a little research about the games they play or the influencers they follow will give you a glimpse of their digital environment. Then, you can decide for yourself which apps or games are appropriate for your kids. Is there a way to control whom they connect with on a game platform? Do you want to limit their access to those games with a certain ESRB rating: EC for Early Childhood, E for Everyone, E10 for Everyone 10 and up, T for Teen, M for Mature, and AO for Adults Only.
Also, there are thousands of apps or games labeled as educational, but this isn’t always quite right. Products pitched as educational are also worth checking out. Organizations like Common Sense Media reviews apps, games and programs to guide you in making the best choice.
Make a family digital use plan
The use of technology shouldn’t just be monitored for your children, but also for parents. Parents are number one role models for children. Technology, when used thoughtfully and appropriately, can really enhance our daily lives. Media shouldn’t displace important activities like face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play or exercise.
Co-play, co-view and co-engage with your children’s movies and games encourages bonding, learning and social interaction. By playing a video game or watching a show together, you will have the opportunity to share experiences and become a part of it. The idea is to not just monitor them online, but interact with them and help mold their experience!
In the end, kids will be kids. They could make mistakes when using digital tools. Helping them understand that technology is great while being used properly is the best thing you can do for them in our digital age.
Find out some really educational, fun, and safe activities for your children online by checking out our After-School Classes!