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5 Tips for Digital Parenting

5 Tips for Digital Parenting 

Natasha was lonely. She missed her grandparents back in her passport country, her friends at her international school were always moving away and her parents were often busy with their ministry. But online Natasha felt confident and valued. Her new online friends she had made through a game app were always so complimentary and made her feel grown up with the secrets they told her... 

This scenario could go two ways. Natasha might be in danger of being groomed and coerced down a very dangerous, harmful path. But what if this is not the case? What if Natasha has been trained to be digitally WISE and RESILIENT? What if Natasha has been taught how to recognize potentially risky scenarios and know what to do?  

How can we train our children to be digitally wise and resilient as well as help our children face the digital future with joy? 

We know that digital experience is different for us all; some of us have grown up before the digital revolution, and others have grown up during this huge change. However, our children today have only known this world of digital dependency in which we now find ourselves. As we help children navigate this ever-changing space, we want to help them be W.I.S.E & Resilient. 

Wonderful

We often see horror stories about technology and digital media, but we must also recognize that there are so many benefits to technology when used wisely, like keeping in touch with family and friends abroad! As parents, keeping a positive outlook towards technology and encouraging them to use it wisely can be beneficial in safeguarding them from harm. For example, if you are constantly criticizing or poking fun at your child for playing a certain game or spending so much time on an app, they are less likely to come to you if something happens. They will tend to attempt to keep their digital lives secret because they don’t want to feel judged. This positive digital outlook should be balanced with healthy digital boundaries.  

Ask yourself: 

  • How do I ensure that my digital parenting style holds a positive, balanced and healthy outlook on technology? 

Interactions 

Digital interactions are happening at an incredibly high rate and quantity for your children, and just like face-to-face interactions, these can be positive or negative. We need to prepare our children to be able to respond wisely to the negative interactions that they will encounter online, just as we teach them to deal with negative interactions in person. We also need to help them decipher what is fake news or information and encourage them to always seek clarity and truth. 

We also need to recognize that our child’s interactions online will impact others. Just as we encourage our children to think before they speak, not to talk behind people’s backs, and to use words to build people up rather than break them down, we must walk alongside our children as they learn how to communicate with others through technology. Are their interactions building others up? Do they realize that hurtful things they may have said online or pictures they might not be happy to have uploaded only add to their digital footprint even if they delete it?  

Ask yourself: 

  • Just as I have helped my children learn how to say no, speak to a trusted adult and to walk away if they feel uncomfortable, how can I help them learn what to do if they have uncomfortable interactions online? 

  • How can I help my children to understand their digital footprint and why it is important to “think before they post” online? 

Safe Spaces 

Just like in real life, children need to be able to have safe spaces online and to know where those are. Some of this can start with filters. If you are the parent of a young child, setting filters may be useful; however, unless you pair these filters with conversations of how to be digitally WISE and resilient, we are setting them up for failure. Children need to learn how to explore the world online safely and wisely and face the digital future with joy, not fear.  

As we mentioned in our Wonderful section, we need to make sure we are not actively or accidentally encouraging our kids to keep secrets from us. Ensure your children know that they can come to you with any problems they may have or any time they don’t feel comfortable or safe online. Reinforce the concept that safe adults don’t ask children to keep secrets. Let them know the difference between secrets and surprises. Surprises, like gifts, are good and have a set time to be revealed whereas secrets are never meant to be revealed. There is a balance to be had as children mature into teens; parents must balance their teen having the right to privacy as well as keeping them accountable. For example, it is wise to ask your six-year-old to regularly show you their digital activity but when they are sixteen you hope to have built a family culture of transparency. This is all built based on a trusting relationship. As parents be wise what you ask your children to tell you in order to respect their boundaries, but ensure they always know to let you know about anything that could be harmful to them or others.  

Ask yourself: 

  • How can I help my children to understand how to explore the online world safely? 

  • Just as I teach my children to wear seatbelts in cars, what added safety measures may I need to add relating to technology? (For example, when are phones allowed to be used, internet filters or boundaries for which websites/apps can be used.) 

Example 

Practice what you preach. Your children are watching your relationship with technology, and they'll follow your example. We encourage you to set family guidelines for technology to make it easier for all of you to have a healthy relationship with technology and each other.  

Today, it is so easy for our lives to be dominated by technology without that being our intention. We may accidentally set an example for our children to focus on what is happening on their screens instead of what is happening around them which can impact their in-person relationships (and ours!). Our children are also watching how we engage and react to content as well as how we’re interacting with others online. If you often get visibly angry and upset or are constantly getting into arguments online, your children will pick up on this and likely mimic that.  

Ask yourself: 

  • Do you post wisely, showing a considered, thoughtful approach to your digital footprint?  

  • Do you ask permission before you post stories or photos of your children online?  

  • Do you take images only for the use of social media sharing? What does that convey to your children?  

  • How do you set a good physical example with technology? For example, where do you charge your phone at night? By your bed? Consider a family charging station. 

Resilient 

Before we talk about how to encourage digital resilience in your children, we should let you know what we mean by digital resilience. Parent Zone has an easy-to-understand description: 

"Digital resilience involves having the ability to understand when you are at risk online, knowing what to do if anything goes wrong, learning from your experiences of being online, and being able to recover from any difficulties or upsets. Children who are digitally resilient will be equipped to handle the challenges of the modern, digital world." 

With this in mind, teach your child to think critically about what they read, see or hear online. This means helping them recognize when something online isn’t true and helping them to think through how they might respond if they come across content which made them feel confused, disgusted, embarrassed or aroused. 

You can make up “what if” scenarios when you're driving or doing chores together. For example, “What if you were on a group chat and people started posting mean things about one of your classmates?” or “What if a stranger you were playing an online game with asked you to keep a secret?”. 

Also, it is important to teach your children how to recover from online mistakes and praise them when they do. Be approachable so they know you can all work together to find a solution. For example, if your child shares that they have been looking at pornography, thank them for telling you and think of a plan together to help them. This will support and empower your child.   

Ask yourself: 

  • How can I be someone my child trusts to come to with problems online (and offline!)? 

  • How can I help my child develop their digital resiliency? 

These 5 tips, training your child to be W. I. S. E. & Resilient, are important preventative safeguarding strategies that all parents must seriously and prayerfully consider. If you ever would like to discuss any of these 5 tips or any other any concerns, please always feel free to contact us at safeguarding@teachbeyond.org. We’re always here to help and support.  

 

For more practical tips here are some useful resources: 

Article on Digital Resilience: https://www.meadowsprimary.co.uk/digital-resilience 
Internet Matters: https://www.internetmatters.org  
Parent Zone: https://parentzone.org.uk/ 
Axis “Connecting Parents, Teens, & Jesus in a Disconnected World”: https://axis.org/ 
Vodafone Digital Parenting Magazine: https://www.vodafone.co.uk/mobile/digital-parenting  
Family Online Safety Institute: https://www.fosi.org/  

 

12 Dec 22
by Safeguarding Team
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