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How we’re helping our kids to navigate the internet

Building Digital Resilience. Photo by gaelle-marcel

Currently my kids, aged 8  and 10, haven’t had access to their technology for a week. It’s been lovely, they’ve been out in the garden more, they are playing together, we’ve been to see a performance, we’re all snuggling up together in the evening instead of sneaking off with gadgets to different corners of the house.

The gadgets won’t be gone forever, that wouldn’t be reasonable, or even desirable. Both Mr A and I work with the internet, he makes video games and I write online, we love the creativity it offers and like any self respecting member of Generation X ( did you read that brilliant article about Generation X in the Independent recently?) we want our kids to be able to build with the internet and get the best from it. Sadly, we also we know the pitfalls all to well. Taking time to regroup and give our kids a taste of the internet free childhood we loved has given us all some headspace.

We’re a bit sick of being bombarded with alarmist messages about parenting and screen time, on the flip side we’re also a bit fed up of managing screen time and negotiating their rapidly expanding requests for more access. It’s ok to take charge and to put the brakes on, we’re the grown ups after all.

And to pause. And to breathe.

This week, while they play very happily in the garden (thank you spring), I’ve been reading up on how to build kids’ ‘digital resilience’, digitally resilient kids are confident online, they get the best from it and know the dangers and how to navigate them. As an ex media teacher I am fascinated by the impact of technology on kids, as a parent I’m often a little daunted, aren’t we all? I’ve got a really useful internet safety article on Day Out With The Kids, about the conversations we need to have with our kids about the internet. As mine start to use the internet more, I feel like I am getting my head round how we need to be around the internet with our kids and how we make them really resilient.

It’s all about combining appropriate rules (make them as a family for added impact) and parental controls with having LOTS of conversations. Taking technology away for a week has made it much easier to have those kind of conversations, and to reflect meaningfully together on what life with and without tech means. There have been surprisingly few complaints and it makes me realise we have more control than we think we have when we’re arguing over screens again, and my kids have more resourcefulness too!

The trigger for our break was arguments over screen time, and my kids suddenly getting much more into You Tube, something I’ve always had a gut feeling it was good to hold them off for as long as possible. I have pretty liberal views about technology, but despite the fact I love making videos on it, You Tube I’m more wary of. Every family will see technology differently of course.

Pressing pause having had chance to play has given us chance to talk about the issues You Tube throws up, immense creativity, self expression and entertainment, but in comparison to television for children, there are also things you can’t unsee, vicious commenters, trolls, complex and unfiltered opinions, losing yourself for hours, plus some of the You Tubers who appeal most to older kids and tweens simply just aren’t great role models. Some are – I’m forcing myself to watch and chat together and work it out together – it is much easier when you simply rely on the BBC to be producing age appropriate content, or with games where we follow PEGI ratings.

I love great videos and enjoy making them, but I’m just not a big You Tube consumer, but  I know danger lies in saying as a parent that you ‘don’t do’ a particular form of social media. I can’t bury my head in the sand when it comes to You Tube, I need to fully understand how my kids consume it.

I am also forever googling things for my kids, and I love that we can have answers at our fingertips to all their amazing questions. But, I am also keen to not to all the work for them, which means letting them use the internet more. Having parental controls in place helps reduces the vastness of what they can access and makes that less of a headache.

Building kids’ digital resilience is like teaching kids to cross the road, eventually you have to take the parental controls away and they have to do it alone. So combining parental controls with lots of talking about the internet is vital. It’s reassuring to read that the same skills you use offline work here. Take an interest in what they are doing, and who they are doing it with. Check up on this and don’t just take their word for it.

From talking to my kids, the internet safety they have covered at school is way behind what they are keen to navigate online. It’s important not to assume school have covered these conversations and to accept the responsibility lies with parents.

Kaspersky Safe Kids collaborated on this post today and asked me to share their product, which may be of interest if you are negotiating how to control the internet with your kids. It helps you to manage risk online, managing which sites and apps they access. It also has controls to manage time spent online, something we need to master and have been talking a lot about as a family this week – for us and the kids! There is also the option to define a safe geographical area, and receive alerts if your child wanders from the area.

The video made with kids by Kaspersky illustrates how much kids do and don’t know about the internet and how that develops with age. It really brings home to me how important scaffolding is, parental guidance and controls, coupled with lots of frank, honest and open conversations about children’s internet usage.

I can’t recommend a digital detox enough as a way to reset and keep up with technology. Packing kids’ lives with other distractions and time and location rules on internet use are great too. I will let you know how we get on!

Have you got any useful tips for managing kids and tech/internet?

 

Post in collaboration with Kaspersky, opinions my own.

Image credit Gaelle-Marcel via Unsplash.

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17 Comments

  • Reply Tracey Williams

    Phew it’s certainly a difficult one isn’t it, and I am sure every household sees media differently. Well done on the kids going a whole week without their devices. Mine have done a few days (age 14 and 11) but not sure if they would manage a whole week. We do have time limits for media, especially for the teen and his PS4, though of course he is always saying that his friends spend 24 hours online. Hmmmmm x

    11/03/2017 at 4:54 pm
    • Reply Penny Alexander

      It changes so much as they grow up doesn’t it? Friends make it hard, and I am already feeling that pressure, but like you, I have to wonder if what they say their friends have is really true? I often wish that as parents we could pull back more collectively to stop the peer pressure.

      22/03/2017 at 9:25 am
  • Reply Daisy - DaisLikeThese

    Such a great post Penny, thank you!
    We also had a digital detox this weekend, and it was blissful! It was actually a ‘punishment’ for some very difficult behaviour the weekend previously – we have found that the boys moods deteriorate massively when they are asked to stop playing their computer games, and we have been on the receiving end of massive tantrums and outbursts. I need to do a lot of work with them on transitioning back into reality after playing. But whilst I figure out how to do that, I enforced a detox! And we had an amazing weekend, playing in the garden and heading out on a mega walk. I sat down and chatted to them on Sunday evening about it all and they seemed to notice that there had been less dramas, which was a good step I guess.
    I totally agree about talking to them all the time about the positives and negatives of the Internet, and it is something that I will certainly be doing too.

    21/03/2017 at 11:28 am
    • Reply Penny Alexander

      We have the exact same issue with coming off screens, more with iPads than TV I have noticed – although with Tv it is easier to switch at the end of a programme. My friend Becky, who commented above, was telling me they need a good ten minutes to transition, but it really can be infuriating can’t it. I think taking it away makes it easier to have the conversations and make a new reality doesn’t it? Good Luck!

      22/03/2017 at 9:19 am
  • Reply Becky

    Great post Penny its so important isnt it that they get out and about in the real world

    21/03/2017 at 11:57 am
    • Reply Penny Alexander

      It really is, we just need to give them the scaffolding to do it safely!

      22/03/2017 at 9:17 am
  • Reply Nikki Thomas

    I love the idea of digital resilience, that is exactly what it is. There is absolutely no getting away from the screens and there are so many positives and negatives to be found in them. I think we do need to teach them the value of balance and ensure that we communicate with them so that they understand the dangers and as you say let them navigate it all on their own. Great post.

    21/03/2017 at 8:33 pm
    • Reply Penny Alexander

      I’ve felt so much happier with the term digital resilience, internet safety seems to make everyone, especially kids, switch off.

      22/03/2017 at 9:15 am
  • Reply JuggleMum, Nadine Hill

    I think it’s vital to keep the lines of communication open between parents and children – the internet and digital usage is unavoidable these days but with safe limits in place and being a willing ear to help them talk things through, we can help them learn and navigate this digital world.
    As my kids have gotten older I have allowed some relax of my earlier stringent rules, as they need the freedom to explore a little but I am also a keen observer of their general behaviour, and can read their body language to tell me when something is up. With a 4 year gap between my kids what is appropriate and allowable for the eldest isn’t for the youngest and this can be tricky when he notices, we’ve just put a new limit on his evening screen time which he doesn’t like much but has accepted.

    22/03/2017 at 11:21 am
  • Reply Erica Price

    It’s important I think to have the balance between using the internet together, talking about it and keeping an eye yourself, with some sort of electronic parental helpmate like this to help give a little independence.

    22/03/2017 at 11:32 am
  • Reply Suzy McCullough

    Such a thought provoking piece. I know my niece (17) and nephew (14) are both terrified for Jamie growing up in even more of a technology age than they did. They’ve seen it all first hand and they’re clever, educated kids. But we work on the internet too and we will guide him as much as possible. I already limit his ipad app time to one to two hours a week and I will certainly have a cap on internet usage.

    22/03/2017 at 6:55 pm
  • Reply angela hamilton

    My children are 7 and 4 and get access to tablets at school and nursery, which are of course, very restricted. At home they watch videos on Youtube of their favourite cartoons and toy reviews which again we supervise.

    22/03/2017 at 7:59 pm
  • Reply Monika

    My approach to technology is the same as them having sex: not until they are 18! 😀
    On a serious note though, it is one thing I struggle with… giving them access to the internet, YouTube and games. I much rather switch on the TV or netflix… where I know there is a very limited, edited range for them to view.

    22/03/2017 at 8:45 pm
  • Reply Emma Raphael

    A really interesting post Penny. We are just wading into that territory in our house right now. My kids schools are very proactive about teaching them the good and bad about life online which is great, but just recently I notice them reaching for gadgets more and more (and I am super strict about when they have them). I think digital detox’s are great for ALL the family, not just for the kids (she types whilst looking at her husband watching guitar tutor you tube videos! :D)

    22/03/2017 at 9:10 pm
  • Reply Kara

    I am lucky that my kids aren’t really “in” to the internet and it frustrates me no-end that their homework is now all online (mathletics / purple mash). If they do go online I find they get grumpy so quickly so they have strict time limits. The teen on the otherhand needs to be surgically removed but he is studying games design at school :/

    23/03/2017 at 6:04 pm
  • Reply Sonia

    My kids have been banned from You Tube this whole year and it has been the best thing I ever did, they got a bit obsessed with it. I am so pleased I don’t have to listen to Stampy’s voice anymore ;D

    29/03/2017 at 10:15 am
  • Reply craftsonsea

    I really paranoid about internet stuff, my son wants a youtube channel but I’m saying nope!

    07/04/2017 at 8:06 am
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