Many parents create digital rules to keep their kids safe in the digital sphere, but a lot of them neglect one important piece when setting those digital rules – explaining the rules to their kids. Parents can set all the rules they want, but if kids don’t know what the rules are or don’t understand the reasons behind the rules, they’re less likely to follow them. That’s why talking to kids about digital rules is so important. When kids understand why parents have set up digital rules and even play a role in creating those rules, they become much more effective tools for keeping kids safe.
Kids should have some involvement in the rule-setting process. While parents have the final say, kids know their technology needs and wants. For example, a parent may decide a child gets only an hour of internet access each day, but a child may know that she needs at least two hours of internet access a day just to complete her homework. By getting kids’ input when they create digital rules, parents can ensure the rules fit kids’ needs. iKeepSafe provides parents with even more tips to get kids involved in the rule-setting process. When kids have a say in creating the rules, they’re also more likely to follow the rules.
Often kids simply don’t understand the dangers they could encounter in the digital world. While parents don’t want to scare kids with tales of online predators and extreme cyberbullying, they can take some time to let kids know that the digital world isn’t always a friendly place. For example, parents may tell kids they can’t be on a certain social media site because it allows strangers to contact them, which isn’t safe, or that they can’t visit a particular website because it contains bad language that kids aren’t allowed to use. A discussion of dangers should also include the negative consequences that can result from things kids do, such as how they could be hurt by posting inappropriate pictures or what happens when they send a mean message to a classmate.
To kids parental blocks can often just seem like arbitrary ways of blocking their access to specific content. Sometimes parents block content because it’s dangerous, but that’s not the only reason to set up parental blocks. Parents should take the time to explain the blocks they have set up. For example, they may explain that they blocked a particular game site because a child was spending too much time playing games and not enough time completing homework or that they won’t allow a child to be friends with a particular family member on a social media site because that family member often posts inappropriate content. Kids might not always appreciate the blocks and limits on their access to the digital world, but at least they’ll know why they’re in place.
The process of setting up online accounts gives parents a chance to talk to kids about digital rules. Whenever kids set up a new account for an app or website or create a digital profile, parents can go through the process with them. This gives parents a chance to talk about rules such as not giving away too much information online and being honest when setting up an online profile. Since parents help set up accounts, they’ll also have access to kids’ usernames and passwords, leading to a discussion about why they want those pieces of information in the first place.
If parents want kids to follow their digital rules, they need to enforce them. Talking to kids about digital rules involves clearly laying out the rules and the consequences for breaking the rules. Parents may opt to put the rules in writing, clearly outlining what each rule is and what consequences kids will face for breaking the rules. They may even have kids sign contracts to remind them of the seriousness of the rules. For example, Janell Burley Hoffman offers a free contract for parents to personalize and give to kids whenever they get a new device. If kids break the rules, parents need to follow through with the pre-determined consequence to keep it from happening again.
Talking to kids about digital rules isn’t a one-time deal either. It’s an ongoing conversation that parents need to have with their kids as they interact in the digital sphere. When parents see kids are breaking rules, they can re-open the discussion of a particular rule. By the same token, when kids demonstrate a responsible use of technology, parents can reward them. Familoop Safeguard helps parents keep track of what kids do online and with their smart devices.
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