Much — but not all — of the world celebrates Mothers’ Day on the second Sunday of May. If you’re celebrating and your procrastinating offspring (or their procrastinating dad) hasn’t picked up a present yet, here’s a simple — and FREE — thing to ask for that will give you peace of mind all year long: online boundaries.
We recently released a series of suggestions for age-appropriate digital safety tips for parents that start with a simple truth about kids born in this new millennium: “They switch between devices, applications, and social media throughout the day without even noticing. For them, ‘digital life’ is just ‘life'”.
If you were born before 1969, you’re older than the internet yourself. But your kids are probably younger than the first iPod, which was released in 2001.
Advertisers and governments are already tracking their digital footprints, and likely have been for years. And online criminals may be too.
You can’t prepare your kids for every situation they will face online. You probably can’t even imagine every situation they’ll eventually face online. But you can save them from numerous difficulties by establishing some basic boundaries. And the younger you begin, the better.
Start by setting a reasonable limit for screen time hours that will not overwhelm schoolwork or real life. You can enforce these limits with the help of parental control software. We advise blocking access to social media sites for younger children. If you’re going to do this, explain why. This lays the foundation for graduating into approved sites with your permission as they get older.
Youthful brain chemistry often prohibits recognizing that time will continue on indefinitely and what you post on the internet will be there forever. Make this clear that what they post could be made public, even if it’s in an email, and impossible to delete. And establish how important the privacy of passwords and other identifying data, possibly by using a simile like “Giving that information away is like giving a stranger a key to your life”.
Tell your child if she or he can agree to one fundamental guideline — “Tell an adult if something makes you uncomfortable, scared, or confused” — it will be almost as nice as some new perfume or shoes. Almost.
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