Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Dec. 2, 2014

Getting Started as a Digital Parent

President and Founder, Play Well

As a parent, you know how important it is to help your child stay safe online, but what if the idea of managing all the different devices, sites and apps that your child uses just feels overwhelming? 

Parenting in the digital age isn't easy. Children often seem at ease using a cell phone to text with friends, play a game, order a pizza and watch a movie all at the same time, while your comfort with the device may start and stop with phone calls. When that happens, how do you teach your child to be a safe and responsible digital citizen?

It turns out that all you really need to get started are the tried and true parenting skills you've already been using to get your child this far in life. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Parenting hasn't changed.  

The world may have changed, but good parenting hasn't. Regardless of the technology, it is your rules, boundaries, norms and expectations for behavior that will guide your child.   
For example:

  • Do you have rules about what programs your child is allowed to watch on television?  Remind them that the rules apply to all devices, and should be followed even when they’re not at home.  
  • Do they know how much time they’re allowed to spend on their devices?  Sit down with your child and develop a plan that makes sense for you both, encompassing homework and play.  
  • Do you have expectations for behavior, such as being kind, courteous and responsible?  Remind your child that the same goes for behavior in the digital world.

2. Put safety first. 

Have you taught your child to look both ways before crossing the street? Do they know that they should tell you if something upsets them? Have you met their friends? Do you know where they go when they leave the house? If you’re a parent, you can probably answer “yes” to some or all of these questions because you speak with them often about staying safe.   

With small variations, you can have those safety conversations about the digital world. For example:  

  • Ask them to talk with you before connecting with a “friend” online who they don’t know in the real world so that you can decide together what connections are and are not appropriate.
  • Sit down together at least twice a year and change all of your passwords, and remind your child that passwords are private, only to be shared between you two.
  • Let them know that if they see something that upsets them, they should come to you for help and you’ll address the problem together.  While you may need to call a friend to help you manage the technology, you are still best-equipped to help your child manage their emotional reaction when they’re overwhelmed.

3. Learn through play.

Over the years, you've taken your child to the park, tossed the ball around, read together, played board games and more. These experiences create bonds that further connect you with your child as they grow. So why not also play a video game together? Or ask them to download their favorite gaming app to your phone and see for yourself why your child has such a hard time putting it down. Adding some digital play to your routine can help make the technology less daunting, give you more insight into what your child is doing and bring you closer together.

You may never be fully fluent in the tech world, but good parenting transcends boundaries. Real world or digital world, it is your voice that your child needs to hear, and you are the one who can best guide them through it all.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.