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.