From selfies and Snapchat, to endless entertainment on the Web, balancing the time your child spends plugged into their devices can be difficult, even for the most experienced parents.
"While it is easy to connect with and monitor your kids online or through social networking, it is really important to physically spend time together talking" says Doylestown Health's Director of Maternal and Child Services, Kathy Donahue, MSN, RNC-OB, IBCLC. "Not only does it strengthen your family bond, but it also helps your children practice communication skills. The family meal is a great time to do this; let the dinner table be a media-free zone."
In addition to the table being a media-free zone, try our six tips below to manage your family's media use to keep them safe online.
Make a Plan
Don't know where to start? Try creating a personalized and detailed plan for determining your family's media use. Although advancements in technology help to make life easier, finding the perfect balance between family bonding and screen time is key. Consult with your children to determine the most appropriate places and times for media use. Make sure that these parameters are well known so that they can be enforced in the future.
Several platforms allow parents to control what their children see through privacy preferences. Children may be unaware that these protections exist or may choose not to use them, but they are a great way to keep your family safe online. Helping your child create a profile and screen name without revealing personal information is the perfect first step to teaching online safety.
Keep your family's computer and other devices in an open, public place so that you can monitor online activities. Keep devices out of your children's bedroom to reduce their urge to use them when they should be doing their homework or sleeping. Don't forget to schedule in daily offline play time to stimulate and encourage creativity.
Educate About Privacy and Inappropriate Content
Discussing online behavior, or "netiquette" with your child early on can help them be mindful Internet users in the future. Talk to them about what content is inappropriate to send to friends or post online, including sharing personal information like their name, age, address, or phone number. Children and teens should be aware that once content is posted online, it is impossible to completely delete it.
Preparing your child for the digital world also means a discussion about online bullying. Talk to your family about how to handle certain situations and what to do if they arise. If your child is being bullied, it is important to take action quickly. Discuss the situation with school officials or other parents if necessary and separate your child from the platform where the bullying is occurring.
Be a Role Model
Your children will see how and when you use your own devices, so be mindful of media use in their presence. Be aware of what you post and be sure to practice proper Internet manners while online.
The nonstop evolution of technology is changing how we interact with our families. Staying up-to-date on Internet platforms and their applications will help keep your family safe.
About Pediatric Services
Doylestown Health is committed to providing family-centered children's services to Bucks and Montgomery County communities. The Carol and Louis Della Penna Pediatric Center offers expert inpatient care to all ages including infants, children and teens. Della Penna Pediatric Center Services extend beyond the hospital setting to include health and wellness education, nutrition services and other support services.