Yes, it’s true, there is no real handbook for parenting. On top of that, the world is a completely different place from when we were kids. With the introduction of the internet and the easy accessibility of technology, the world offers so many advanced opportunities (and dangers) to our next generation.
For most of us parents today, we are pretty much learning the ins and outs of gaming and social media right alongside our kids. As we continue to learn and adapt to this new world order, we need to think about going back to the basics when it comes to rules and respect for others and ourselves.
Katie Schumacher, mother and author of Don’t Press Send, A Mindful Approach to Social Media; An Education in Cyber Civics, presents her program to countless students and parents. Her first question to the students is always, “what rules have you been given regarding cellphone or technology use?” Most of them replied with, “Don’t lose it and don’t break it.”
Truth is, children learn the rules of acceptable behavior from their surroundings. Without rules and guidelines, how are they suppose to know how to use such powerful tools, especially technology that they are not mature enough for? Tweens and teens are impulsive by nature and sometimes don’t think before they act.
Schumacher encourages parents to be easy and matter of fact. When your child gets their first piece of technology, explain to them about the privilege involved in having it and establish rules, boundaries and guidelines up front. “It’s much easier to have rules in place at the get go rather than going back and creating rules after the technology has been given to your child,” she said. Here are some examples of rules and guidelines for your children when online or using social media.
10 Rules For Technology & Social Media
- Take the Pledge. Katie Schumacher created The Don’t Press Send App to help guide parents and children to use technology with kindness in today’s ever-changing technological world. It’s available on the Apple Store.
- Determine Screen Times. Establish timeframes that your children can have screen time, for how long and where exactly they cannot have it like the dinner table or on a family outing. Remove technology from their bedrooms overnight and secure their technology in an area you can monitor when they are not using.
- Create Self-Confidence. Talk to your kids about self-confidence. Ensure they understand how proud you are of them and encourage them to feel good about themselves BEFORE they get on social channels. Searching for self-confidence by posting selfies or waiting for LIKES is not an appropriate way to determine self worth.
- No Strangers Allowed. Talk to your kids about who they can connect with on their X-BOX games, who can friend them on facebook and who can see their photos on Instagram. Go through privacy settings on social media together if you want to.
- Keep Personal Info Private. Be sure to talk to your kids about not sharing their birthday, school, their location or even their social security number on social sharing platforms.
- Dare to Care. Even after you take the kindness pledge, encourage your children to use social media for good intentions. Lift people up. Encourage them. Go out of your way to be a positive influence on social media. You will be amazed at who will follow in your footsteps.
- Pause. If there is an image, message or quote that may be inappropriate or hurtful, pause. Once you press send, it’s there forever. You can’t take it back. Social media is not meant to be hurtful. Teach your kids this early. Also talk to them about how permanent the internet is and what the future consequences might be when applying to colleges and future jobs.
- Practice What You Preach. Especially if your kids can see YOUR social channels and internet behavior. Don’t rely on likes to make you feel valuable or post provocative pics that your kids or their friends will see. Monkey see monkey do. Even beyond toddler stage.
- Create Consequences. Make sure you follow through with consequences when the rules are not being followed. You can even establish consequences when you are discussing the rules and guidelines. Make sure you are clear and everyone is on the same page.
- Unplug. Dedicate a day to unplugging. Isn’t it ironic how connected we are to our technology, yet we can be so disconnected to our own family? You don’t get these years back. Make them count.
We can all do our small part to encourage kindness. Let’s challenge ourselves and our children to put an end to cyberbullying, help reduce teen suicide and get child predators offline. Small steps make a huge difference.