Meet the Blogger! A “Common Sense” Approach to Digital Parenting

This is a guest post and cross-posting with The Challenges of Parenting in the Digital Age blog and is written by Vigne Kozacek (@vkozacek)  and Gary Sharpe (@DrGarySharpe) *

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parenting2In today’s online world, there isn’t really any clear distinction between “real life” and “digital life”. Mobile devices and apps loom large and have become integral parts of daily lives and relationships in many families around the world. For children who are growing up in this digital age, the online and its rapidity of change are second nature. Yet this ever-changing nature of the digital landscape can at times leave parents feeling bamboozled, uncertain, left behind or even fearful. While parenting naturally includes teaching children about relationships and dangers, boundaries and rules of behaviour of real life, it can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to the digital aspects of children’s lives.

As a sweeping generalization, we might say that the kids are typically the “tech experts” and the parents are the “life experts” in many families and this, in itself, can be a dividing line. In our view, any solution to the online safety of children should be one which assists in bridging this divide and building trust.

We believe that a “common sense” or perhaps more accurately a “commonalities” approach can be a good starting point. By this we simply mean instead of seeing the two “worlds” as quite different in terms of parenting, it can often be constructive to concentrate on the similarities and to consider the analogies. We will be exploring some specific and detailed suggestions in forthcoming posts in this blog, which are based on this approach. However, here we would like to present a selection of some basics principles which arose from this “commonality” way of thinking about digital parenting. Hopefully they are indeed “common sense”.  We would, of course, welcome your feedback on these.

 

  1. What You Says Goes. The rules are set by the parents. Parents set the boundaries and the norms of behaviour for children’s offline activities, so this should be the natural order online too.
  2. Parents Are The First Port of Call. By encouraging children to remember that if they are hurt, upset or concerned by anything that happens in their online lives, it is still the parents to whom they should run to, this may help to bridge that divide.
  3. Reward Good Behaviour, Dis-incentivize Bad. Parents can use access times to the internet, to a mobile device or to an app, as well as the degree of parental chaperoning or supervision, as a practical way, in itself, to reward good online behaviour.
  4. The Biggest Part of A Child’s Network. Just as in real life, parents would usually be a child’s first and main connection/friend/follower in all the online spaces they use. Perhaps also consider recreating online the networks you have developed with the parents of your children’s friends, as this could provide virtual versions of your parent-to-parent support groups, in each digital space in which the children play .
  5. Stranger Danger Applies. This analogy is straight forward – anyone your child does not know in real life is a Stranger online too. The same rules about stranger danger as in the real world will hold true, including saying no, the importance of reporting unsolicited approaches, and so forth. Education is a key element to safety just the same as offline.
  6. Don’t Let Them Go Into The Unknown Alone. It should perhaps be normal for parents to accompany a child the first time they visit new places online – whether it be a new app or new online social network. This will allow you to suss it out, observe and assess. The final say as to whether this is a place which is safe for them to go unaccompanied is yours, of course.
  7. “Don’t Go Anywhere Without Telling Me”. Making it clear to a child that, for their own benefit, they need to ask your permission or at least that it courteous to let you know, before they use specific apps or social networks, could help establish this as norm of behaviour.
  8. Play Nice and Play Fair. Unruly behaviour, upsetting others, shouting, throwing things, being rude, bullying, ganging up is bad behaviour. Encouraging others to engage in bad behaviour is bad behaviour. This applies to everyone!
  9. Don’t Get Into Fights. It is worthwhile teaching children to avoid conflict and arguments and that  they can just walk away the moment online play stops being fun.
  10. If In Doubt, Ask (Children): Let’s encourage children to seek Parental help or advice and to report to them if they are at all worried or unsure about anything they see or hear online.
  11. If In Doubt, Ask (Parents): Parents are encouraged to seek help or advice and report to the relevant bodies or support organisations if they are at all worried or unsure about anything they see or hear online.
  12. “What Did You Do Today?” Consider that showing active interest and getting involved in you child’s online life, without being too nosey, can help to build trust and understanding both ways.

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Vigne Kozacek is a Husband, Father and Internationally recognised IT/IT Security Expert. He is dedicated to helping Parents understand the technology used by their Children and shares his thoughts on his Blog he can also be found on LinkedIn here.

Dr Gary Sharpe is an internationally leading scientist  and also an expert on social media for business. He is also an online author and crafts multi-media articles. Read more of Dr Sharpe’s work on the Blue Dog Scientific Blog and on LinkedIn Publisher.

 

 

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