Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Aug. 11, 2014

Encouragement for the Digital Parent

Law Professor & Digital Parenting Consultant, Council of Europe, e-Enfance

We were on vacation last week and my boys had brought their LeapPads to pass some of the travel time. Being the super advocate on Internet and technology, I had loaded their kid tablets up with plenty of educational apps and games, so I thought I was one step ahead.

Imagine my surprise when my four-year-old started clicking photos and focused in on a little girl down the hall. I gasped, grabbed the tablet and told my son that we do not take pictures of other people without asking for their permission first. I slapped my hand to my head because it had totally slipped my mind that their little tablets were camera- and video-equipped.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that you are not alone in dealing with technology and parenting. I consult, teach, and coach others on Internet safety and best practices and yet even for me, it is not always easy. 

But instead of playing the blame game and feeling like a bad parent, I realize that this happens. We cannot stay on it 24/7 and we cannot know the latest news on all technology, apps, and games. But we can stay relatively informed and try to nip things in the bud when they happen. You do not have to be an Internet safety advocate to use common sense when educating your children; you just have to apply your same offline parenting skills to a new online world.

Encouraging Takeaways:

  • Our parents probably felt overwhelmed and wondered if our brain development would be stunted as we sat in front of the television watching Gilligan’s Island and Hogan’s Heroes. (I don’t know about you, but I have several advanced degrees and can still sing the Theme Song to Gilligan’s Island and Green Acres, if you must know.)
  • You really do not have to be the King or Queen of Internet and Technology in order to be a good digital parent. But you should be aware of current issues and best practices and consider signing up for newsletters from A Platform For Good (digital parenting resources). You can also take a look at the topics and publications from Pew Research Internet Project. Just skimming some of the topics (Internet of Things, US views of technology in the future, mobile phone usage in the US) will feel less like homework from computer science class and more like a hip tech friend sharing secrets.
  • If you are not sure what types of games or apps are appropriate for your child, you can consult Common Sense Media top lists for ratings on age-appropriate games and apps for 2-17 year olds.
  • If something does happen and you are unsure of how to react, don’t panic. Parent. Take a deep breath and think it through. You are surely not the first parent who has to deal with this issue. You can do quick research on Net Family News or Connect Safely where you will undoubtedly find well-researched commentaries and guidance on how to deal with your issue.

If you are still feeling out of your depth, again – don’t panic. You can look at issue specific guidelines from NetSmartz or contact the CyberTipline to make an actual report.

Okay, so you’ve read everything, you’ve created screen limits, you’re following all the parenting tips, you’ve cleaned up your digital footprints, and yet your children still fight you over screen time, throw tantrums when you limit their gaming consoles, and overall just act like digital demons. What to do?

Well my digital parent friend, you take a deep breath, you realize that you are not alone, you know that support is just a click away, and you keep on parenting. You keep on doing what is right to raise a responsible digital citizen. And let’s not forget, it’s the same type of parenting that you were doing before, only now our children have more technology to play with. 

Do you have any digital parenting tips to share? Such as how you overcame an issue or found a creative solution to a screen time or gaming problem? If so, please comment below. We are all in this together.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.