Technology has become an inevitable part of daily life. An Info-communications Media Development Authority survey in 2014 showed that most Singaporean households have internet access and are increasingly using their smartphones to go online — turning to social media for communication, leisure and as an information source.
While technology has enhanced our lives in many ways, there are downsides too. Our challenge is in raising digital natives who embrace media and technology, while protecting them from the dangers that come with unrestricted use, including premature exposure to media, cyber bullying, and media addiction.
Here are some strategies to help our children safely and confidently navigate a tech-saturated world.
1. Equip them with age-appropriate safeguards
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to technology and media. Parents need to carefully consider the age and emotional maturity of each child, and tailor an approach for them.
In 1999, the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) issued a statement recommending that parents should avoid screen time for children under the age of two years. Beyond this guideline, parents should set age-appropriate limits and boundaries on the media consumption of their older children to prevent overuse.
Children can also stumble across unsavoury content while online. A 2016 Straits Times report revealed that at least 9 in 10 teenage boys and 1 in 10 girls in Singapore have watched or read sexually explicit materials in the past year, mostly through their mobile devices.
Try to restrict laptop or computer use to the living room only, and install software to block pornography. Installing web filters on their children’s mobile phones is one way about it, but this may only work for younger children. The most important thing we can do for our teenagers is to have open channels of communication and heart-to-heart talks with them. Regardless of age, gently remind your children that any safeguards have been put up for the sole purpose of protecting and helping them.
Regardless of age, gently remind your children that any safeguards have been put up for the sole purpose of protecting and helping them.
2. Teach them media discernment
Just as you wouldn’t let your child into the pool unsupervised before taking swimming lessons, we need to prepare our children to navigate the World Wide Web, before letting them loose online. Teaching them “netiquette” will make them responsible and cautious users, both in the people they interact with as well as the information they share online.
One of the most pervasive problems in the media today is fake news – does your child know how to spot it? Teaching your child to evaluate information for authenticity and accuracy is a valuable critical thinking skill that will serve them well even in adulthood.
3. Embrace media as a learning and entertainment tool
Some parents make the mistake of adopting an “all or nothing” approach when it comes to technology and media. However, a moderate response is more constructive.
As a general rule, help your child be an active consumer of media rather than a passive one. Active engagement means your child is learning new facts and practical skills, and this becomes a productive use of their time. Encourage your child to translate what they have learnt into real life. For example, if your child enjoys reality TV cooking shows, cook a meal with them for family dinner one evening.
Help your child be an active consumer of media rather than a passive one.
Children’s technology and media use will change over time. Beyond having a media use agreement in place, make time to talk and understand what they are viewing and playing. These are great opportunities to gain insight into your child and understand their likes and dislikes, while building a lasting ‘IRL’ (in-real-life) relationship with them.
This article was first published on MindChamps and republished with permission.
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