Weary parents tired of trying to keep children’s screen time in check are being urged to look at their own digital lives to role model healthy relationships with technology and social media.
On Safer Internet Day, Centacare Parenting Educator Kay Buckley is encouraging adults to think about how they engage online, and the influence this has on their children.
“COVID-19 lockdown taught us a lot about their digital lives because we were all at home together, but children learned about our habits too,’’ Kay said.
“We tell them to get off their screens, but then they see us on our phones all day and night.
“If you are battle-weary from arguing with your kids about devices, take a break from that, and look at what your own actions are teaching them.’’
Kay said Centacare parenting education course participants often admitted being glued to their phone at the park instead of watching their children play.
“Honest parents admit they do that, and I’ve done it myself, and it’s then when kids will go to great lengths to get your attention,’’ she said.
“Conversely, parents have told us that their children get so engrossed in computer games that they soil themselves because they won’t even get up to go to the toilet, or they’ll stay up all night and then be so tired they refuse to go to school the next day.’’
Kay said creating a family technology agreement, with consistent and realistic expectations for both parents and children, was a good start to striking a healthy and safe balance with devices at home.
Technology agreements outline the ways a family can work together to manage screen time, stay protected from potential online dangers, and avoid conflict.
“Always encourage your child to talk to you about anything they see online that makes them upset or uncomfortable, and share your own experiences with them,’’ Kay said.
Having old-fashioned fun at home and outdoors was equally important: “We want our children to be equipped to live in the digital world but it’s important that they explore other ways of relating and interacting with people.
“Giving kids the opportunity to take off their emerging adult hat for a while through meaningless fun is a good thing.”
“As parents and grandparents, we need to read the information, take what we need from it, and then do it,” she said.
“Make keeping safe online a priority, and develop habits and routines that not only protect your family but promote the wonderful and creative scope that digital tools offer.”