While technology has made our lives easier, parents are often found complaining that it is becoming increasingly difficult to handle children in the digital era. With almost everything, from education to entertainment to shopping happening in the virtual world, we are using the Internet and digital devices more and more. But, with the increasing use of digital technology, we have also started becoming aware of its adverse effects, especially on children.
Most children nowadays spend a good part of their time glued to smartphones and computers that are hooked to the Internet. As a result, a lot of children are developing the tendency to avoid the following - eye contact while conversing, mindfulness while eating, and involvement with goings-on around them.
As a result of children's attachment to the digital world, parents have begun to feel worried. They are concerned about not having much control over the information accessed by their children and how it is influencing them, the people they are engaging with on social media, and what they are being exposed to on the Internet. Most parents report feeling helpless, anxious, and even frustrated.
But, not all is lost. Parents can still turn the ship around by being innovative and by using digital technology to aid them in their efforts by becoming responsible Digital Parents. Let's read on to know how.
Who is a digital parent and what is digital parenting?
Moms and dads need to learn new ways of parenting in today's digital era. Digital parenting involves understanding the digital world - its benefits and risks; monitoring children's digital lives; and keeping children safe in the digital world. Doing all these allows parents to be alongside their child in the digital world and help shape his development in a digital world.
Need for digital parenting
With the use of technology on the increase, children are being exposed to technology both inside and outside the home. As a result, most children of the present generation are quite familiar and comfortable with using digital devices. However, the adeptness with which children use technology shouldn't blind parents to the dangers lurking on the Internet. This is one of the compelling reasons why parents also need to familiarise themselves with technology and be aware of the risks in the digital world.
How digital technology adversely affects children
Kills productive time: Spending increased time on smartphones or other such devices is preventing children from experiencing the joy of learning through experience. Also, being hooked to the Internet makes children lose track of time and neglect their daily routines.
Makes them victims of cyberbullying: While social media helps forge connections and propagate ideas, it also lends itself to various malpractices. Common among them is bullying. Nasty comments on posts, making fun of photographs, criticism on social media handles, etc., are troubling a lot of children who are active users of social media. Unfortunately, while a child may be going through all these problems, the parents may not even be aware of the issues.
Leads to sexting and accidental exposure to porn: Many teenagers who chat through social media end up sexting someone. Also, sometimes, children accidentally click on pop-ups and advertisements which lead them to adult sites and increase unhealthy exposure to porn. Smartphones and Internet availability have led to a substantial increase in the viewership of porn in recent times.
Exposes them to online gambling and the availability of illegal substances: While shopping online is a pleasant and comfortable experience, many individuals also indulge in illegal activities on the Internet, like selling drugs or running online gambling dens. Children can inadvertently come into contact with such individuals, which can cause them immense psychological stress to both parents and children.
What can parents do?
Have open communication channels with children: Parents must initiate discussions with their children to try and understand what draws them towards digital platforms.
Learn about the safe use of the Internet: Parents must learn about the various ways in which technology is used and the dangers it can pose. Knowledge and awareness about preventive measures like parental controls on devices are helpful in regulating content children have access to. All the major operating systems, search engines, cell phone providers, and gaming platforms provide either free or inexpensive parental controls to help you manage your child's online experience.
Establish common rules for using the Internet: Before parents allow their child to use gadgets and connect to the Internet, they must prepare a list of do's and dont's - for example, restricting use to one hour a day, and no usage during dinnertime and bedtime. Along with the rules, parents must also set consequences for breaking the rules - like losing the privilege of using the gadget for a predetermined period.
Be a virtual protector: Follow your child by adding yourself as his friend on social networking sites. This way, not only would you be their friend but protector as well, while your child explores and experiences the wonders of the digital world.
Preach what you practice: Children learn a lot from watching their parents. Chatting on the phone during meals, checking the phone often while your child is sharing something with you, or taking selfies during family time can convey to your child the wrong message. As parents, we need to overcome the temptation to engage with the screen often and model good digital behavior. Be a digital role model for your child to instill good digital habits.
Technology is an inseparable part of our lives and we cannot avoid using digital platforms; however, we need to protect our children from its unhealthy effects. Balanced and judicious use of technology is the key to protecting our children while allowing them to enjoy the experience.
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