Column: Parenting in a digital worldJune 1, 2021
By Haley Droste
Youth First Inc.
Today’s youth have never known a time that was not heavily focused on the digital world. Even before a global pandemic shifted work, school and social events to online spaces, children today have been experiencing a childhood that is very different from that of their parents.
Technology provides amazing opportunities for our young people, but navigating the digital world is also a heavy responsibility that children cannot and should not maneuver on their own. As summer approaches and students will have more time to spend online, here are a few tips to take into account while parenting in a digital world:
1. Embrace the opportunities while minimizing the risk. As a parent, it can be a normal response to feel the need to shield your child from technology. However, withholding technology altogether does not teach children or provide them with the skills necessary to navigate the digital world. A more effective approach is to accept the presence of the digital world and help your child navigate it successfully by traversing it with them. Parents should be the guide.
2. Be a digital role model. Be aware of your own digital presence. Think about how much time you are spending in front of a screen. Are you fully present with your children or are you behind a phone or device? Are you an example of positive digital etiquette? Remember, your children look to you for direction. Create digital rules that work for your family. Create time and opportunities at home that are without the presence of technology, and make sure you fall in line as well. Your children are more likely to comply and respect the house rules if they see the leaders of the household setting the tone.
3. Strive for screen balance. Again, the key is not avoiding technology altogether but rather to find a balance that works for your family. Try one hour of engaged family time for an hour of screen time. Create a checklist of tasks to be completed prior to any screen time, such as homework and chore completion. Create boundaries and clear expectations and be consistent. Children feel safe and secure with parents who are consistent. Be comfortable with the fact that your child will not always be happy with your parenting decisions. Don’t be afraid to set limits.
4. Start the conversation and keep it going. Talk to your child about their digital world and their experiences. Make certain your child knows you want them to come to you with problems or concerns they may be encountering online. And most importantly, when your child comes to you with a concern, be aware of your reaction. Don’t overreact. Thank them for sharing the concern with you and use the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about the issue.
Most importantly, strive to teach your child to be resilient so they are able to bounce back from pitfalls they will likely experience online. Have thoughtful conversations and work with your child on increasing their social and emotional skills so they have the ability to manage and cope with their emotions effectively.
Haley Droste, LSW, is the Youth First Social Worker for Westside Catholic School at St. Agnes and Westside Catholic School at St. Boniface in Vanderburgh County. Youth First Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families providing 64 Master’s level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First’s school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.
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