Parenting in digital age

Nowadays, children regardless of how young they are, use technology frequently. They even seem to surpass their parents when it comes to using it. According to UNICEF, today, one in three internet users are children. But not all of them are supervised by their parents. Unfortunately, most parents are oblivious of the fact that parenting in digital age is not as easy as it seems to be. It poses many challenges to them.sni

Ayesha Tariq, a child psychologist from Islamabad, calls parents digital immigrants because they were born with no or rather older devices. Children on the other hand, are digital natives. Because of this obvious breach, children are indulging in the virtual world unsupervised. Hence, being exposed to various risks like cyber bullying, adult content, abductions and unreliable relationships etcetera.sni

Uzma Rana, a Pakistani research psychologist based in Auckland says teenage boys utilize an average of two-third daily screen time. Besides, 10 percent of 12 to 13 year-olds are addicted to pornography.sni

Banning however, is not the answer to tackle the problem. While commenting on the topic, Dr Richard Freed, a child psychologist based in USA said that forbidding use makes tech more enticing. While unrestricted use proves to be unproductive for the children as they cease to reap all tech benefits. Therefore, parents’ role becomes crucial in this regard.sni

Parents should first accept that their children are part of this digital world. Then they need to upgrade their knowledge to help guide their kids better and introduce rules for them.sni

Adam Pletter, a clinical psychologist based in Maryland, USA states that parents should know how to better manage technology themselves to set appropriate limits for children. Also they should be aware that their devices (like smart phones) have parental controls to safeguard children from cyber experiences and gaming.sni

Setting the rules

To better understand its usage, parents should take support from other people who are tech literate. Moreover, Dr Larry Rosen, a professor emeritus at California State University, USA suggests Shifa News readers to ask children to show you what they know. This makes the children proud and boosts their confidence. Make your child your computer consultant in the beginning. And then, gradually introduce house rules so that kids have secure online experiences.sni

Ayesha recommends being open, empathetic as well as firm with rules. Communication is the key. Imposing rules would probably be counterproductive.sni

Dr Kimberly Young, founder and director of the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery, in Bradford, UK, adds that parents should understand that different age groups have different demands. Therefore, introduce rules according to their age.sni

No technology: Birth to three years

Dr Kimberly informs that screen time of any kind before three years impairs a child’s development, social communication and attachment to the family. Avoid handing him a smartphone, tablet or laptop. In case unavoidable, prefer showing a computer game or television program for an hour or less. Their detachment from technology helps improve sensory-motor and reading skills and relationships with family and other children.sni

Careful supervision: Three to six years

This age bracket is an important phase in childhood development. They learn prosocial behavior in this age. Do not provide children a device as a sitter. Supervise carefully for a limited time period. Use parental controls and block questionable sites and video games. Involve them in physical games rather than exposing to the virtual world.sni

Control and involve: Six to nine years

Dr Richard recommends allowing only two hours of screen time daily under close supervision during this age bracket. Let them know that you monitor their behavior. And involve with them making their tech time “family fun time”.sni

Besides, introduce phone etiquettes. They should know when and where it is appropriate to use the phone.sni

Also, do not let them buy or download apps on their own. Do proper research before buying games. Check a game’s review before buying it. For that, take help from the Entertainment Software Rating Board app to know its appropriateness.sni

Strict rules: Nine to 12 years

It is time for strictness. Follow rules strictly and confiscate all devices for a day if they are broken. Moreover, ensure children complete their homework before tech use. Also keep a check on how they are performing at school. Try establishing family time without tech use (no screens in the car or at dinner etcetera.) Keep the computer where you can easily keep an eye on the child,” suggests Dr Kimberly. And do not allow them to play violent online games, particularly role playing games.sni

Furthermore, “know their online friends and invite them over to your home or at least talk with your children about them,” adds Dr Richard.sni

As children get older Dr Larry suggests asking questions such as, “we read about cyber bullying. Do you know anyone who was bullied?” “What would you tell one of your friends to do if they were bullied?” Such questions take the situation out from the child and make it general. You are more likely to get an honest answer, particularly from older children.sni

Flexible policy: 12-18 years of age

Parents need to be highly conscious when tackling with teenagers. Do not impose rules as they may be aware that many of their friends have unlimited internet access. Some children may also have their own smartphone. Dr Larry says this may be the time when children need to make better choices on their own. Therefore, make changes in your house rules. However, be sure your child uses technology responsibly.sni

Grant unsupervised use ensuring your teenager maintains a digital log, adds Dr Kimberly. This may seem difficult but is not impossible.sni

Make it clear that it is the only way to use internet without supervision. This helps teens keep track of their tech use. Also review their log for improving engagement with family and technology.sni

Teach digital social skills

Parents need to teach digital social skills to their children since a young age. Remind children they should not say things online that they would not say otherwise. Also, encourage them to think before they post.sni

Health effects of excessive screen time

Excessive screen time effects a child’s cognitive abilities such as reading, learning and problem solving. Kids prefer virtual reading in snippets rather than book reading which affects a child’s comprehension, analysis and evaluation.sni

It also deprives them of face-to-face communication and learning to integrate all communication cues; verbal and non verbal.sMoreover, a child’s frequent use of technology comes at the expense of important developmental activities, including family and study time, as well as the opportunity to play out in the nature and exercising. So parents should set rules and ensure children do not spend most of their times on screens. sni

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