Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Protect children from social-media traps

Published:Sunday | July 31, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The following is another in a series of parenting tips brought to you by The Sunday Gleaner in association with the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC).

For many parents, seeing your child spend countless hours using a mobile device can be very disturbing. Especially if your child is all too happy to interact with non-educational apps and social-media sites despite their last report card leaving them submerged in C's.

It's now summer, which means schools are on holiday, and technology use within the home is trending upward. It now becomes a major issue for parents to ensure their children are navigating safely and productively through cyberspace.

Director of communication at the NPSC, Mikhale Edwards, acknowledges the difficulty experienced by some parents to curb the risky and unproductive use of technology by some children.

Edwards says parents have a responsibility to educate their children about the possible risks associated with using technology inappropriately. He further indicated that parents should also become aware of the opportunities available through effective technology use. He issued the following advice to parents:

1) Apply guidelines to the use of technology. Parents should set limits and take the time to know who their child interacts with online. Parents ought to become aware of what software, apps and platforms their child uses. Be clear about what images their child should share online and which sites are inappropriate for them to visit.

2) Engage in technology use with your child. It is often said a family that plays together stays together. Parents are encouraged to use online engagement as a unique opportunity to bond with their child. Research indicates that millennials are usually among the earliest adopters of technology. This suggests a parent could also learn a lot about technology usage from their teenage child.

3) Be a good role model. Parents should always promote good manners online. In addition, they should limit their own online use at home. This will allow them to remain connected with their child's thoughts and emotions.

4) Create tech-free zones. The use of mobile devices should not be encouraged during family mealtime and other family and social gatherings. There should also be a cut-off time for the use of such devices.

5) Encourage productive use of technology. The forming and maintaining of online relationships are a typical part of adolescent development. Parents should encourage their children to develop healthy and lasting relationships online.

6) Appreciate the value of verbal communication. Research indicates that face-to-face communication remains a critical component of language development. Instead of texting a distant relative, parents may encourage their child to video chat.

7) Be mindful of your digital footprint. For many parents, this may be the most important aspect of technology usage. Children should be reminded that privacy settings do not mean that images and thoughts automatically become 'private' and are lost in cyberspace. Instead, all information is stored and forms part of their digital footprint.

Technology remains a critical part of our world today. According to Edwards, the NPSC advocates for, and promotes, effective 21st century parenting. This suggests that once technology is used appropriately and in moderation it will contribute positively to a child's holistic development.