Start a Conversation About Safe and Healthy Digital Habits

March 28, 2019

While each family’s approach to technology is unique, we know one truth for certain: Talking about digital habits is important. Children look to adults for guidance on how to navigate the online world and balance device use. As a parent or caregiver, open conversation is one of your best tools for encouraging healthy, safe digital habits for children of all ages.

Here are some tips for handling these important conversations:

Bring up digital activities in everyday talks.

The best conversations with children often happen during meals, while commuting, or in the middle of a family activity like taking a walk or playing a game. Try to integrate conversations about digital well-being in your everyday conversations. You might start with a question, such as:

  • Did you use social media (or play an online game, text, watch videos) today? Tell me about what you liked or didn’t like about it.

  • How do you feel about how much time our family spends on devices? Is there anything you would change?

  • What’s your favorite thing about using your phone (or tablet, gaming console, etc.)? What is your least favorite thing?

  • Have you seen or heard anything online that bothered or worried you? Tell me about it.

Communicate consistent guidelines.

Discuss boundaries and rules for device use that follow your preferences and values. You might talk about:

  • Online activities, including which are approved and which are not approved

  • Times or places you’d like to keep device-free

  • A time limit for screens and how you will enforce it

  • A plan of action for when your children see or experience something online that bothers them (like online bullying)

Your children might even have their own rules they’d like to add!

Make the conversation two-way.

Ask children how they feel about the role of phones or other devices in your household. Then, listen to their answers. You might hear that they wish you put your phone down more or stepped away from your work email during at-home hours. They may like to watch, play, or listen together instead of being on individual devices. This is your chance to hear your children’s needs and wants for digital well-being, as well as voice your own concerns.

Conversations are most powerful when they go both ways, so be sure to take a step back and listen as well as speak. Each family will come up with your own ways to have these conversations. The key is to keep talking about these important topics, so you and your children can build healthier digital habits together.

In partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute, Google Applied Digital Skills has created a digital well-being curriculum to help promote these conversations at home and in the classroom, including a lesson on building healthy digital habits. These lessons contain activities like keeping a journal about digital interactions and interviewing an adult about digital habits that can help you and your child think about how to manage their overall well-being.

Written by

Janet Maragioglio

Janet Maragioglio works on the Google Applied Digital Skills curriculum team creating video-based lessons that equip students with future-ready skills for education, work, and life. She has 20+ years experience writing and designing educational materials and is passionate about equity and access in technology education. She’s also Mom to two tech-savvy middle schoolers and loves to talk with them about what they see, do, and experience online.