Monday, January 2, 2012

Kid's Online

I was away this past weekend celebrating the New Year with about 300 teens and young adults. WOW, did I expect that? No, and no one else did either. News travels fast in cyber space especially when it's related to teens and parties. Fortunately it was a church related party at a large facility and the adults involved were capable of quickly adapting to accommodate the overflow. The food multiplied magically, and everyone behaved beautifully. There were plenty of activities and games, and the
fireworks were spectacular.

Communication is fast these days and our kids have ever widening circles of friends due to social media, online games and cell phone use. It's not easy to control or monitor what's going on in our children's lives especially once they become teens. For this reason I think it's really important to start educating our children about real relationships and wise use of technology while they are young.

During the past 15 years cyber space has changed dramatically, and it has also changed our lives dramatically. 9 or10 years ago when my oldest son was in middle school, I facilitated workshops to help parents understand the dangers of  children using the internet unsupervised. Those dangers exist even more now than ever, but hopefully parents have become more aware and cautious. Even though there is a lot of 'child safe' and 'protective parent' software out there, nothing can protect your children better than having good values, real friends, and parents they can talk to. You can't protect them with software forever.

Here's my list of proactive measures to help kid's learn to use use technology safely and wisely:

  1. Start late. Your preschoolers will not be left in the dust if they are not keyboarding by first grade. Keyboards are designed for larger hands, and learning proper keyboarding skills in middle school will help them much more than learning sloppy two finger typing earlier on.
  2. Focus on real friendships. Kids need to learn to communicate one on one and in small social groups before they enter the faceless, nameless world of cyber space. If they become accustomed to communicating with the vast unknown too young it can alter their perception of relationships and reality.
  3. Teach values. If boys learn to respect girls and women as if they were their sisters and mothers they will be less likely to look at them as sex objects. The same goes for girls. Our kids need to learn young that pornography is not healthy for their future love relationships, and that their sexuality should be protected until they are mature enough for the commitment of real and lasting love.
  4. Be a good example. Don't live in cyber world yourself, use it wisely, and don't let your social media use take away from your relationship with your kids. Example speaks louder than words.
  5. Set use limits. Any type of screen time is not advised for children under 2 years old. For healthy brain development and vision, the American Pediatrics association advises that parents should not allow children under 2 years old to watch TV or use computers. 
    • From 3 years old to 6 years old not more than 30 minutes of screen time per day.
    • From 6 years old to 9 years old one hour a day for games or entertainment is enough.
    • After 9 years old kids may need to use the computer more for school work. Keeping it focused on learning will help your kids to not become over dependent on media use for all types of entertainment and relationships.
    • For teenagers, keep the computer and game consoles in the public area so you can easily monitor time use and appropriate activities. Make sure they have plenty of real world options for friendships and activities like: sports, clubs, jobs, and community involvement.
I hope the new year is starting off great for you. If you have other ideas on this subject please leave a comment below.

3 comments:

  1. Cheryl, I like your comment about letting them be late! I actually told my mother-in-law the other day that I refuse to let the kids have a Leap pad because I think there is plenty of time for them to learn all of that later. We have a handheld video game but I only let her use it in the car on LONG trips. I just think it is better for kids to use their imaginations and getting hooked on technology can wait!

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  2. These suggestions are really great and helpful for those of us who will be facing this very soon. I am kind of terrified about having to help my child cope with social media and the internet...

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  3. Great list. Glad you stopped by and linked up at my site today. I'm following you on GFC.

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