By Amit Singh Kalley | Britain |
Nobody said 21st century parenting was easy.
Discord, Snapchat, CSE, HSB, TikTok, Holla, Badoo, Ghosting, CU46, TDTM, Kik. Lost yet? If you are, I don’t blame you. However, I would ask why are you lost and what you are going to do about it?
All of those words and acronyms represent teenagers in the 21st century and in the digital age. As parents, we need to remember that our children, even those younger than teenagers, live in two equally important worlds: the physical world, the one we all share and exist in, and the digital world, the one many of us don’t quite understand. So when you next turn off the internet supply at home because your child has done something wrong, ask yourself how it would feel if somebody cut off your arm? That’s how important the digital world is to children and teenagers today.
Parents have an obligation and responsibility to understand the digital world their children live in so they can guide them through the challenges and support them when the inevitable mistakes are made. If your child was being groomed online, would you recognise the signs? In fact, are you even clear on what grooming is? If the answer to both of those questions is ‘no’, then you have some work to do in order to be a 21st century parent.
The internet is a wonderful resource that so many of us use for everyday tasks and that so many of us enjoy browsing for those mind numbing posts that make us chuckle. But, there are real dangers that lurk in the online world and if your child is going to be kept safe from those dangers, then you need to know what they are and where they are found.
Hiding being innocent messages could be people that have very bad intentions and people that may want to cause harm to your child. Education is the key and whilst your child may receive internet safety education at school, how do you ensure you know of the dangers? Being aware is crucial.
Here are some simple things that you can do to ensure that you and your child are educated and safe:
- Set up parental controls on home internet and mobile phones and monitor viewing habits. These might be limited and your child may learn how to get around them, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them in place. They can work and they can keep your child safe.
- Supervise online activities where appropriate — have computers in shared areas. Allowing your child to use their laptop in the bedroom, door closed and lights off, is a recipe for disaster. You have no idea what they are doing or who they are interacting with; they could be in danger. Keep devices in open areas so your child knows you might walk in at any time.
- Set expectations — talk about your expectations and allow your child to contribute to this. Agree on a digital charter and make it seen. This is so important and coming up with a charter where every member of the family has contributed can work miracles. Don’t tell your child that you know best and that it’s your house and, therefore, you set the rules. Work with your child and come up with a digital charter that applies to all of you and that is made up of compromise. You want phones off at 9pm, your child wants them off at 11pm. Compromise at 10pm. Your child says no phones at the dinner table, but you have emails to answer. Compromise.
- Communicate regularly about the digital world, including sharing information and listening to your child. You may have read something or heard something on the news that you want to share, or your child might tell you something they learned at school. Listen and engage.
- Go online together and find things that interest you and your child. Nothing beats going online with your child to search for things that interest you both. Sport, maybe?
- Educate yourself on the digital world and things that might cause harm to your child. Sadly, this never stops and the need for education never ends.
- Don’t take inappropriate steps, such as cutting off the internet. Why not? Because you know you’re going to switch the internet back on soon enough so that you can use it. And, remember that your child’s digital world is as important to them as their physical world, even if that sounds crazy to you.
- Ask for help if you need it. Never feel alone, ashamed, embarrassed or responsible. We are all in this major challenge together and we need to support each other when things don’t go well.
The digital world can be dangerous, but with the right care and education, most children can navigate it safely and use it to their advantage. For this to happen, they need you to be clued on.
As a parent/teenage coach, I am always striving to help people navigate these difficult years. Working with me might make a difference to you, your understanding of 21st century parenting, and your relationship with your teenager. Click here to schedule a call for a free consultation.
Sikh mum helps children thrive in a digital world (Asia Samachar, 9 June 2021)
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