Mike Saunders

By Mike Saunders, keynote presenter and consultant at TomorrowToday, a company which helps their client navigate the ‘New World of Work’. He teamed up with Tamryn Coats of  Ububele Psychotherapy and Educational Centre in Johannesburg, and created a short booklet entitled “Raising Digital Citizens – Parenting in the Digital Age”. Click here to download the booklet. 

Our children are being raised unsupervised in a digital world, and parents are ill equipped to protect them. Here are some guidelines which I hope will help empower you to parent effectively in this digital age.

Guidelines for Parents

Take an active and informed interest in your children’s lives, online & in the real world. Talk to them about  their life online; that way if problems arise you’ll be the one they turn to.

3  things to say in that conversation
1. Never share an image or do anything on a webcam you wouldn’t be happy for family or friends to see.
2. If someone threatens you online, tell someone you trust. You can talk to me about it and I’ll understand.
3. If you do get into problems online, it’s never too late to get help. We will understand. You won’t be blamed.

3 ways to open a conversation about online activitiesiStock_000027551089Medium-200x300
1. I  wonder if someone threatens you online who you feel you could tell?
2. How do you think you could get into trouble online?
3. I wonder how you think Mom or Dad would react if you ever did get into trouble online?

4  things to do if your child tells you they’re being blackmailed online
1. Acknowledge the courage and maturity it took for your child to come and tell you.
2. Believe your child and tell them you believe them. Their experience needs to be acknowledged and understood.
3. Don’t blame them, and tell them you don’t blame them. Even if they’ve engaged in risky behaviour, understand that risk-taking is a normal part of adolescent development.
4. Don’t immediately ban them from the internet. Although you may need to take short-term safety steps, the best way for children to stay safe is by learning how to negotiate the online world in a responsible manner.

Don’t Panic
If you suspect something damaging is happening in your child’s digital world, it’s important you adopt a level-headed and informed approach to what is taking place. A major reason why children don’t disclose online problems is the fear that they’ll have the technology taken away from them, thereby taking away a large part of their social lives.

Become Tech-Savvy
You will better comprehend your child’s online environment and its dangers if you at least have a working knowledge of the sites, social media and apps that he or she utilises.

Develop Home Values for a Digital World
David Coleman recently wrote an excellent article which outlined a number of things that parents can do to promote a healthy digital life for kids in your home.

  • Set ground rules for acceptable time limits for being online in one sitting
  • Set a nightly cut-off time
  • Young children should be supervised online
  • Use filtering software to minimise and eliminate unwanted content in your home.
  • Set ground rules for children sharing personal details
  • Remind children that the content they post is permanent
  • Discuss the internet occasionally to show you’re open about it
  • Teach kids how to treat people with dignity online
  • I would just add that using the filtering software on your WiFi or network router will apply the content filtering settings to your entire home, across any device that connects to your network.

Charging Stations
One of the best ideas I have heard to promote healthy digital boundaries has been to have a family charging station. A place in the home where all family members charge their digital devices at night. This is outside the children’s bedroom and in a family room. This is a good idea for a number of reasons:

  • Stops ‘bored browsing’ at night which are the risky times for browsing unwanted content online or engaging in late night
  • Sleep better – even teens should be getting 9 hours of sleep ideally and having a device in their room often keeps them awake late at night in conversations with friends.
  • Relieve anxiety – in a world of instant response, texting creates an anxious environment. Not receiving an expected immediate response adds stress to young people’s lives as they wait for the replies.

Click here to find a list of related articles on zaparents.

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