Raising Kids in the Digital Age

Welcome to the digital age, where screens and social media have become an integral part of our lives – whether you like it or not. Maybe you’re in the small percentage of parents who have managed to avoid screens altogether – if you are, why did you click on this article?? 😛

As we raise our children in this technology-driven world, it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed by the challenges it presents. From managing screen time to ensuring online safety, we have a responsibility to guide our kids through the digital landscape.

Let’s explore practical strategies and tips to navigate the digital world with confidence, fostering healthy relationships with technology for children of all ages.

First, I Fully Believe In Open Communication and Digital Literacy

One of the most crucial aspects of raising kids in the digital age is fostering open communication. Engage in frequent, age-appropriate conversations about technology use, online safety, and responsible digital citizenship. Encourage your children to ask questions, share their experiences, and express concerns. By cultivating an open dialogue, we can instill critical thinking skills and empower them to make informed decisions. Additionally, teach your children about digital literacy, helping them discern credible sources, understand online privacy, and develop healthy online behavior. In other words, don’t just hand them a computer and tell them to have at it. Parents, handing your children a phone is essentially doing just that. Back in my day, a phone was a phone was a phone. It was strictly for communication purposes. Texting was a fairly new concept (Nokia brick, anyone?) where you had to memorize how many times to press the 2 to get the letter you wanted!

It’s just not the same, y’all. If you’re going to give big responsibilities to your child like a little mini-computer device that can access things in the deep dark pits of the world wide web, open communication is the way to go. Teach them what to look for. What to avoid. They are going to stumble on non age-appropriate things. They need to be able to come to you with questions. 

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries around screen time is essential to maintain a healthy balance in their lives. Create a family media plan that outlines guidelines for technology use, taking into account age-appropriate limits and ensuring time for other activities such as outdoor play, reading, or family bonding. Consider setting device-free zones or times, like during meal times or before bedtime, to promote healthy habits and foster meaningful connections. Remember, it’s not about completely avoiding technology but rather finding a balance that works for your family’s values and priorities. In our family, our teen’s devices are all set up to charge in the living room. He has a computer set up in a main living area for school work. He is able to have his phone on him at all times, but it stays charged in the living room area after a certain time. I’m not saying this is the exact right way to do things, because we’ve had issues – but it’s how we’ve chosen to do things. With those issues, came more open communication and discussion, and this is a system that works for all. With out his phone on him at all times, he is able to get more sleep at night, or use his off-screen time at night for more productive things like reading or exercising. 

Digital Citizenship and Online Safety

Teach your children the importance of responsible digital citizenship and online safety from an early age. Digital citizenship is a phrase I learned while researching. I’d never heard it before. Essentially, it means to encourage kindness, respect, and empathy in their online interactions, emphasizing the impact their words and actions can have on others.

Show of hands if you’ve come across some grown-ups in online threads and comment boxes that could use a fresh lesson on digital citizenship!

Teach them not to be keyboard warriors. An online social media comment section is absolutely not the place for a meaningful argument. It is a waste of time. Tell me the last time you changed someone’s mind and their opinion did a 180 after you replied to their comment that their political stance was wrong. Zero? Is zero minds changed an accurate number? Teach them to use their words online to glorify and honor God. Refer back to a classic: if they don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Establish guidelines for social media use, including privacy settings, appropriate content sharing, and the importance of not engaging in cyberbullying or sharing personal information. Stay informed about the latest online trends and platforms to effectively guide and protect your children in their digital journey. I’ve had a field day with this one. It’s fun and I’m able to (goofily) connect with my teenager by saving and sharing funny memes with him. Something as simple as that is an easy way to use technology to connect with your kiddo and still have fun doing it. 

Be a Positive Role Model

Children learn by observing, so it’s crucial to model healthy technology habits yourself. Show them that technology can be a positive tool when used responsibly. Limit your own screen time, be present during family moments, and engage in offline activities together.

But also, don’t judge the 3 seconds of that mom’s life at the park where her eyes are on her screen and her kid is yelling for her to look. For all you know, she’s been dealing with a lot all day and she’s finally getting around to sending that email. Or she’s scrolling Facebook for a moment – either way, not your business. Worry about yourself and your presence with your child. If you know you’ve been swiping through YouTube shorts all day, give your kiddo a break and be present for them. They are watching you and they know when it’s been 5 minutes or 5 hours.  

Foster a balance between digital and real-world experiences, encouraging them to explore their interests, pursue hobbies, and connect with nature. By being an active and positive participant in their lives, you can inspire them to make mindful choices in their own technology use. I remember the first time I had a friend ask me how I got my kids to read so much. I didn’t know what to tell her other than, I just.. read. I fill the house with books – good books, classic books, comic books, garbage books, all books! They are just encouraged to pick up a book and read. 

Raising kids in the digital age may feel daunting at times, but with the right approach, you can navigate the challenges and empower your children to be responsible digital citizens. Through open communication, setting boundaries, promoting digital literacy, and being positive role models, we can guide them to embrace technology as a valuable tool while maintaining a healthy balance with the real world.

It will take some work, especially if you might feel like your child is already addicted. Screen addiction is a very real thing and it’s something we’ve had to overcome in our own home, and guess how we were able to overcome it? You guessed it. Open communication, setting healthy boundaries going forward, and conversations on online safety. Your kids are counting on you to guide them through this stuff, y’all. Don’t leave them to their own devices. (That was super intentional, and I waited this entire article to say that!)

Remember, it’s about finding what works best for your family and fostering a safe and enriching digital environment where your children can grow, learn, and thrive.

Parenting Digital Age Infographic

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