I was born in the 1980s and enjoyed the good and the bad 90s has to offer. To be honest, 90s were good times. I remember waiting for the next episode of Mara Clara everyday, playing at 4PM with our neighbors during the weekend, watching Ang TV at 4:30PM after school, telebabad with friends with call waiting and three-way calls as the coolest things back then, having the latest albums of Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls in cassette tapes, and watching the 6PM news so we have something to share for next day’s Sibika class.
Ahh, simpler times.
Fast forward today, things are A LOT different. Yes, I appreciate technology and it made our lives easier and more convenient. Information is within reach and it is easier to communicate with other people. Still, let’s face it. Technology, or at least the digital world has its not-so-good sides, too.
Some of the challenges in this digital age includes:
- Gadget addiction
- Too much screen time
- Lack of familiarity on how digital tools work
- Exposure to online dangers such as cyberbullying or sexual predators disguised as kids
- Lack of supervision on digital use
In fact, parents nowadays have to adjust and adapt to the changes as we navigate through the so-called Digital Parenting.
WHAT IS DIGITAL PARENTING?
Digital parenting is about supervising and being mindful of our kids’ online activities to ensure that they are protected from various online abuses and dangers. Consequently, it is about educating and guiding kids on proper usage of digital media for them to become responsible and respectful digital citizens.
Aside from making sure that our kids are getting what they need such as food and clothing, we also have to protect them from the possible harmful effects brought by various online activities.
Keep in mind that social media platforms are readily available and can be downloaded for free. Owning a gadget is easier, too, because there are tons of products available at an affordable price. Parents are turning to gadgets to entertain their kids to be able to finish chores or work (I’m guilty of this). There might be instances where Internet use is unsupervised because let’s admit it, there’s too much in our plate.
Because of accessibility, parents must take a bigger role of making sure that our kids are safe, whether online or offline. At the same time, we need to mediate when it comes to our kids’ digital usage.
The question is HOW.
TIPS ON HOW TO BE A GOOD DIGITAL PARENT
Here’s the thing: we can’t push technology away. With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing people to stay at home, we need technology now, more than ever, to keep us connected, get reliable information, and conduct online classes among others.
If there is anything I learned from raising my girls in this digital age, it’s that digital tools will always be part of our lives. I can’t keep my daughters away from exploring YouTube videos or playing games like Roblox. Nonetheless, the key here is mediation.
Here’s how we’re adjusting as digital parents:
+ Know Thy Latest
Technology is evolving fast and as parents, we need to keep up with the latest. We need to be informed and must educate ourselves on whatever is out there in the digital world.
That being said, parents must not be averse to technology. Find out what’s new. Explore the apps your kids downloaded. Check the history of websites they visited. Learn how to set parental controls to reduce our kids’ exposure to the digital world. It can be intimidating and time-consuming but we’ll do anything to keep our kids safe, yes?
+ Keep Your Kids In The Loop
It’s not enough that we know what is happening and the dangers that come in the digital world. Our kids need to know about these, too.
Therefore, keep the kids informed and educated. Remind them about the rules on Digital Etiquette. Emphasize on the importance of privacy, which includes not sharing information about real name, age, and address. Let them know about the warning signs of cyberbullying and encountering sexual offenders.
More importantly, make them feel that you are ready to listen when they open up or say something. Keeping communication lines open is important these days because we need to be aware and informed of what’s happening to our kids, both online and offline. Kids must also be comfortable in opening up to their parents, which makes it easier for us to mediate in case something isn’t right.
+ Limits Are Non-Negotiable
We can’t stop the kids to have their own social media accounts. Because of the pandemic, we can’t stop them as well from talking to their classmates online. It’s fine. We can’t stop our kids from watching YouTube videos, too.
Still, set limitations. There are websites and YouTube videos (you can toggle this in the settings) that are off-limits to kids. We limit screen time as well by allowing them to use the gadgets for a certain time within the day. I always set the timer to 30 minutes every time they use the gadgets. Once the timer’s done, I get the gadgets – no questions asked.
+ Never Use “Internet” As A Reward Or Pacifier
I used to be guilty on this. Then again, I noticed that the kids are cooperating just so they can use the gadgets after, which is unacceptable behavior. Plus, I don’t want to give the idea that throwing a tantrum is okay since “mom will give the gadget anyway.”
Yes, I learned my lesson – and so does my kids. They learned to accept and deal with their emotions, especially now that they are getting older. They know that they have responsibilities as well as the values that come with it. They learned to adjust to the situation to keep themselves entertained.
It was a struggle at first but eventually, we’re doing this for our kids’ sake. Plus, they can’t get everything they want at anytime, can they?
+ Tech-Free Zones Are A Must
There are certain instances where gadgets are off-limits –
- During study time so they could focus
- While eating meals to encourage conversation
- At least an hour before bedtime to avoid them from having a hard time sleeping
- During playtime
Kids (and us, too!) need to be screen-free as much as possible. Otherwise, they could be dependent on gadgets.
+ Encourage Playtime, Reading Time, Or Quiet Time
Since we want to limit gadget use as much as we can, playtime is highly encouraged. My eldest is playing less now, so she’s more into books and writing her own stories. For the youngest, even though it’s a mess after, I let her play.
Quiet time is usually an hour before their scheduled bedtime. Reading bedtime stories has been our thing but I let them do whatever they want, sans gadgets.
More importantly, make this a family habit. If they see us without our phones, our kids will follow, which leads me to this next tip.
+ Teach By Example
This is crucial. We always remind the kids that gadgets are off-limits on the dining table so when they saw their dad using it, they called his attention.
The point is if we want our kids to be responsible, mindful, and respectful digital citizens, then we need to show them how it’s done. Kids follow by example. They can easily absorb and imitate what they see from us. This is why our digital rules also apply to us.
Here’s the thing: digital tools are now part of our lives and resisting it won’t be helpful. As digital parents, we must embrace these changes and make sure that we guide our kids as they navigate through this phase. Never forget the importance of face-to-face interaction and communication, especially when it comes to our kids.
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Ayi is a stay-at-home mom of two. When her kids are in their best state, she keeps up with chores, work, and ensuring that her sanity is intact. Join her as she navigates through this rollercoaster ride called motherhood.