Quiet please!!! That’s what you’ll attain the moment you hand that device over to your child … PEACE and QUIET!
They’ll be locked away in their bedroom and you’ll eat your breakfast … uninterrupted. You’ll get through a phone call … uninterrupted. You’ll get through the chiropractor appointment … uninterrupted. You’ll have a real conversation with your girlfriend over coffee … uninterrupted. You’ll even have a bath … uninterrupted.
The word ‘blissful’ was used when a mother described this very experience to us the day she handed her 10 and 13 year old their very own device.
Now this will probably happen – that’s why parents are handing over the device to kids who are younger and younger – devices are time creators for parents. A phenomenon that has happened all over the world, awesome … BUT a device is far more than a silence wand – in fact it’s a lot more than that.
Devices are very powerful tools that allow children to access anything they can possibly imagine … and we mean anything!
For kids, devices are more than tools, they are a lifestyle and one that can completely excludes parents.
As kids enter teenage years, they become a lot harder to manage and these days, with a device attached to their hand, their social capability goes through the roof. They can do anything – it’s unbelievable. They are free … and the world is their oyster.
“My parents have absolutely no idea what I do online … they would know way less now than they did before!”
The trick to maintain any sort of stronghold on their device usage, is to play to the internal moral code you’ve instilled – their conscience! Now let the truth be known … in ordinary circumstances (like in the real world) parents would have the upper hand because they would be all over the ins and outs of what they’re instructing their kids to do and ‘why’. In real life situations, parents understand how their kids ought to behave in public – they know it from experience and they see the cause and affect experience play out.
In these ‘tangiable’ situations parents understand clearly, ‘why’ they are offering the guidance they are.
With social media … according to deviceKids – parents know very little about the values, etiquettes, expectations, pressures, conduct, purpose and drivers that exist online … and parents definitely don’t know what it’s like growing up with these pressures.
But let’s not have this detail stop you!
You’re still their parent and you are still in charge PLUS you are about to hand over a device. You are still charged with the responsibility of their care. So if you are handing over a device to your kid there are a few things you need to have a chat about and they fall under the banner of:
Responsibility, trust and honesty.
1. Put a condition of responsibility on your child before they can receive a phone.
Kids learn the value of responsibility through actions and opportunities to be responsible. By requiring them to prove themselves responsible with daily life tasks, not only does this allow you to regulate their progress but you can use the “you have proven yourself” card on them.
This demonstrates to your child that you must “trust them” to make sensible choices with the device. This expectation is why you have decided to hand it over. This will resonate in the child conscience when faced with abusing their responsibility.
2. The device should be a positive experience and together, you must ensure that your child is safe.
A great way of doing that is to reinforce to your child the importance of open and honest communication to protect each other. If your child is feeling unsafe, they must be reassured that they can talk to a parent or caring adult to help protect them. Engaging with others online should not be an experience that hurts them or anybody else.
3. The phone is your phone and your child is allowed to use it.
Part of kids turning into little monsters the moment you threaten to remove their device, is because most parents give it to them. Kids today are already somewhat reliant on social media – allowing them to own the phone justifies why they shouldn’t hand it to you (because it’s their property) but it can also undermine so much of your authority.
Having access to the online world is a privilege and the device is an expensive tool. By maintaining the power you may find your child may think twice before acting inappropriately online. The risk of having their parents find out what they did, may assist them to self-regulate avoiding feeling humiliated by having their parents witness their behaviour goes a long way. PS: don’t fall for “if you trusted me then you would give me a phone!” – that is the oldest trick in the book and understand that your kids obviously, won’t love you more (despite what they tell you!).
4. Like any freedom and lesson of limits, accessing a device is no different.
Introduce a boundary as to the times your child can access social media. When the time is up, the phone is handing back to you where you have it stored. Have a timeframe the child can access the device if they choose to.
A major issue for kids on devices is reliance. You are doing them a favour by removing it altogether and forcing them to engage with something else. Although they will carry on initially – they will stop once they know you are serious. If they want the device at all they need to respect your authority, trust your judgement and behave responsibly.
5. Ask your child what they believe to be the good things and bad things about accessing social media – make a list together.
Ask them why. Allow them to speak freely and openly and do not judge them or make them feel silly. They are kids and this is a world most kids will be desperate to engage in. Ask them probing questions. E.g. “Do you know anyone who has experienced that? How do you think they felt?”
Too many parents learn from and rely on their own children to educate them about the online world. In saying that, it is critical that you know what they ‘think they know’. Don’t stop there. It’s up to you to understand the concepts and be able to stay one step-ahead of your kids knowledge and experience. Educating yourself about the online world is never ceases because technology changes every day.
Although most schools cover these topics, remember they are addressing groups of children. Don’t always be convinced that your kid is listening or even understands what they are hearing.
6. Privacy. Nothing online is private.
All content regardless of your settings, are not private. As long as you post it, it’s public. If they want to discuss something in private with a friend, the safest way is verbally – not online. It doesn’t guarantee they won’t betray you and post it, but it minimises the risk.
Your child – especially teenagers will pull the ‘privacy card’ on you. However, kids get themselves in trouble online because they do not understand what privacy means.
If your child wants privacy from you … in their own space, no problem – they can hang out in their room and write a journal or talk to a friend on the telephone.
But anything they post online can technically be checked or discovered by you at any time. The lesson is, that the online space is not trustworthy and people can be dishonest.
People keep imagery and store it for potential use later – that is a fact. So it’s very important that if your kid doesn’t want something seen by you, or Aunty Jane or Uncle Hank … that they think twice before posting it!
To terrorise, harass, intimidate, stalk a person online. This can be physical, emotional, verbal or sexual in nature. Just like in the real world, this includes teasing and torment … the only difference is that it happens in the online space.
If they wouldn’t want words or images posted about them, then don’t post it about someone else.
If they wouldn’t say or do something to the person’s face, then don’t post it on social media.
That way you can have a chat about the content and how to resolve any potential problems.
At no point must they ‘like’ or support words or posts that could make someone feel bad about themselves.
If they feel in any way that someone has posted something nasty about them online, they must inform you right away. The earlier they tell you, the better.
Your child must feel safe to tell you if someone claims that your child has cyberbullied another person. Please take this very seriously. The online space can make bullies of kids that wouldn’t normally have the courage to do so face-to-face.
Cyberbullying can be dangerous because bullies can swell in numbers so it’s important that your child speaks with you at the first sign of a problem.
8. Never send sexual (or violent) content online.
The themes your child must understand are:
Sending sexual imagery under 18 years is illegal. Sending imagery without consent is illegal and experiences the full force of the law. There can be serious consequences, not just for your child but also for you. It can put your futures at risk.
Other kids will try to lure and convince your child to post explicit content – but the answer must always be “no”. Peers and strangers will try to make out that they like you and that’s why they want a photo. The answer is still “no” .
Your child must understand that requesting a nudie is at no point an acceptable request. Trust is often broken if a friendship ends. Once you send a nudie out into cyberspace – you will never get it back.
They must think about the day they want to get a job, or if they were to gain any media success in their life, or if they were to fall in love with their dream person – how they would feel if their photo was retrieved and revealed.
You must teach your child the power of foresight and the ability to rationally and responsibly weigh up options.
9. Handing out personal information.
The internet is rife with strangers guised as friends. Social media plays right into the hand of people who want to find out ‘more’ about you. You will be blown away how much information your child can give away about themselves, their family, including photos of your stuff, their bedroom and their location!
Social media is a burglar’s best friend, they can get a floor plan of your house online and find out where you are on holidays and how long for thanks to little Toby who has told all of his friends!
Remember these are kids you are dealing with. If someone in the street asked for their name and address – even as a primary schooler – they would probably say “no” because you have instilled it in them for this context. On social media however … everyone is their friend!
10. If your child is receiving any calls, texts or imagery from anyone they don’t know, they will inform you.
This is a big one. Too many kids are left vulnerable and are easily lured into compromising situations by strangers because they are just so trusting. This is why it’s important to check their phone and address book for strangers. Think stranger danger online.
Therefore it’s important that they earn your trust by complying to this rule and for you to not penalise them for doing so – even if they have made a mistake in your eyes. Kids don’t inform their parents of details because they are too afraid they will lose the device.
A note to parents! Don’t make the common mistake of handing the phone over blindly!
Remember, the device is not a toy and it’s a powerful tool that gives children the ability to participate in a lot more than their age requires.
As their parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you know exactly what your child is getting into once possessing the device. Managing youth in the digital age takes a new kind of parenting – a savvier kind.
Understanding what young people are engaging in and why, and learning what happens for them is the first step. It’s your job to safely and effectively lead them through a digital childhood that poses far greater risks for kids than ever before.
“Help I’m a parent of a deviceKid!”
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