Parenting is a difficult job and even more so in the internet age, especially when your children are between 5 and 16. According to psychology, by the age of 5, children’s habits are quite well-defined so you’d think that since you’ve taught them good etiquette and values, they will safely grow up as obedient kids who’d become good citizens in future. But that’s not entirely true when they’re growing up with exposure to a variety of good and bad ideas across the internet – especially if they’re doing it without your supervision.
So the question is what is the right way to raise children? How can you make sure that you’re raising your kids the right way? Read on to find out as we explore the dynamics of good parenting in the internet age, in light of advice from some of the best psychologists and internet security experts in the Europe.
What Does “Good Parenting” Consist of?
First things first, good parenting involves being your child’s best friend and the parent. It’s important that you communicate with your children a lot. Spend as much time with them as possible, explore their perceptions of the world, and allow them to share their opinions of their experiences and events in the surroundings.
Don’t just take your kids to the park for the rides. Don’t just play educational games with them. Listening to your children is very important. Talk to them about their school, what their friends are like and really understand how your child perceives the world. Only then will you be able to guide them on their opinions so that they can establish a sense of wrong and right.
Just as you teach them to be cautious of strangers, discuss internet security with your kids. Help them understand what it means to have a good online reputation. This is not only for older children but really young ones too because according to a survey published by the Daily Mail, children as young as three years old are active users of the internet.
Starting from Scratch: Nurturing Children up till Age 5
In some ways this is the most crucial time for parents because up till age 5, your child is developing his/her habits, moral and social values and the ability to distinguish between wrong and right. Most of this time is spent teaching them good ethics and social niceties like saying “please” and “thank you”; respecting elders and being kind to others.
TRUST GOES BOTH WAYS
Make sure that along with that you teach your children to trust you, so that they’re not afraid of sharing anything with you. Build a candid relationship with them so that they know that they can discuss all of their problems with you without the fear of being reprimanded.
They should know that you will help them without punishing them first and together you can find a solution. Once they’re in that comfort zone, as they grow up it will be much easier for you to engage them in conversations about drugs/alcohol, sex and STDs without unnecessary awkwardness and they won’t feel the need to hide anything from you.
INTRODUCTION TO TECHNOLOGY
Parry Aftab, Executive Director of Wired Safety says, “Look at every piece of technology that you’ve got in the house that your kids can play with. Can they contact somebody else with it and communicate with them? Can they see content: porn, violence, any kind of information that they can share back and forth? And will it cost you money: downloading videos, pirating songs, technology viruses that are going to blow up your computer?”
So right from the start teach your children to beware of strangers on the internet, to not befriend them or converse with them about the specifics of their personal lives. If they have access to smartphones/tablets at such a tender age, make sure they understand how to use them responsibly.
After 5: Raising Tens and Teens Right
HONORING PRIVACY: TO DO OR NOT TO DO?
That’s the biggest parenting dilemma of our times. Children want to keep their phones and social lives private and if you have a candid, trusting relationship with them, it’s okay to an extent. However, being the parent, it’s your job to still check on their phones and social media profiles to make sure they’re not getting carried away so that you can guide them.
Let them know that you honor their privacy but in return you expect them to be careful and vocal about their lives over the internet. Demanding their phones or forcing checks is not the right way, nor is sneaking up on their phones in the middle of the night. Instead you can see their phone activity using software to make sure they don’t feel uncomfortable or that you don’t trust them.
DON’T TELL THEM NO
Danah Boyd, from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University says, “Don’t be afraid of technology, don’t try to cut your kids off from smartphones or social media; don’t tell them to turn it off. That way you’re just shutting down communication rather than teaching them how to use those things responsibly and safely and how to express themselves appropriately.”
For that you need to educate yourself about social media and smartphones and unless you’re immensely tech-savvy, due to the generation gap your kids will always have an edge so secretly watching their internet activity is the safest way out.
From experience I can tell you that it’s perfectly safe and your children are blissfully unaware of it so you can access all of their calls, texts, IM conversations, emails, photos and Youtube and internet browsing data in an online control panel, from anywhere, anytime without having to worry about upsetting them or fearing their retaliation.
BE THE PARENT, LOOK OUT FOR THEM
Parry Aftab, further said, “Often parents are afraid of putting their foot down because their kids won’t love them. When I talk to kids, it’s amazing how many kids want structure. They want somebody to be in charge; they don’t want to be out there on their own. So they may protest this, but they really want parents to be parents. They’ve got best friends already.”
“So it’s important that we keep track of their online activity. Kids will welcome it, they’ll be safe, and they’ll grow into better people. It’s up to you to raise your kids. It’s not up to MySpace or Facebook to raise your kids. It’s important the parents step in.”
We have to teach our children to protect themselves first and foremost, and we can help them from there on. We can see their activity in the digital world and be their best backup, but they have to learn to be the ones protecting themselves by using technology and the internet responsibly.