Toddler, Tween & Teen Advice

Digital Parenting Challenges

  • Hilary Smith
  • Category Toddler, Tween & Teen Advice

Do you remember gathering all the baby books and magazines you could find to read up on how to care for your baby and toddlers?

The library and bookstore shelves were stuffed full of the newest feeding methods and sleeping approaches. We poured over every detail from burping techniques to swaddling methods, but what we didn’t expect to expect was the prevalence of digital technology in our children’s near future. Most of our preparations never mentioned social media or Smartphone technology. While our devices offer us amazing benefits with instant communication, easy access to information, and gps technology, this abundance can be overwhelming for modern parents when it comes to raising children.

As we struggle to make sense of what our children are digitally up to, we can find ourselves questioning what they are really doing on their devices for hours and hours at a time. We understand that they are playing games, sending messages, snapping selfies, and streaming videos. These handheld luxuries offer endless entertainment and ways to communicate, but lurking behind the glow of the screens are a myriad of dangers many children and parents might not consider.

Understanding Technology And Our Children

Unfortunately, these hazards cover a wide variety of pitfalls from cyberbullying to oversharing to sexting to online predators. The list could probably go on and on, but these are four of the biggest problems facing our youngest digital natives. Only recently have these topics became real parenting challenges gaining national attention with daily negative headlines, which is why many of us are left wondering what to do when it comes to children and technology.

It’s essential that we consider a recent study’s shocking revelation that cyberbullying rates have tripled. The authors of the study acknowledge that 87 percent of our kids have either been victimised or witnessed, which is up dramatically from around 28 percent a few years ago. For parents, this can be devastating to digest, because we understand the links between bullying and increased chances for suffering from depression, high anxiety levels, and thoughts of suicide.

If cyberbullying isn’t enough to worry, we need to consider that sexting is now considered a normal part of development. This trend might not expose a child to actual sex dangerous like pregnancy or disease, but sexting can lead children down a dangerous path. Minor children who send or receive a sext can potentially be charged by the authorities for possessing or distributing child pornography. It doesn’t matter if the act is consensual, it is seen by the law as a felonious act. To compound these matters, sexting can open our kids up for exploitation, bullying, relationship abuse, and shaming.

6 Popular Apps To Be On The Lookout For

Coming to the conclusion that our children may be behaving badly online is disheartening, but we also need to consider that a majority of our sons and daughters, 70 percent in fact, hide their digital activity from us. Staying on top our children’s activity can be daunting, especially after the mass exodus of our teens from popular social media sites we frequent, like Facebook.

To help you understand what apps and sites our children are using for a combined average of six or more hours each day of screen time, we have compiled a list of # trending apps that should be on our radar:

  • Snapchat
  • Whisper
  • Dubsmash
  • Instagram
  • Ask.fm
  • Burn Note 

How To Speak To Children About Digital Challenges

To help us conquer digital parenting challenges, please read the following suggestions to help communicate with children and teens about problems they may face:

  • Start a discussion regarding the importance of balancing technology in our everyday lives.
  • Instil a sense of social media etiquette in young children and add to this foundation as a child ages. Use the “grandma rule” and only post items that they feel comfortable with Nanna stumbling across.
  • Reclaim family time and events to offer plenty of time for communication.
  • Make an effort to just listen and hear what they are saying.
  • Reinforce good behaviour and choices. Let them know you appreciate their judgment.
  • Develop a contract that states technology expectations and consequences as a family.
  • Actively monitor a child’s cell phone and online activity. Know their friends, what sites they visit, and drop in from time to time on their social media profiles.
  • Avoid lecturing and belittling children about social media and technology use.
  • Lead with a good example!
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