10 Tips for Parenting the Digital Child

Smartphones, laptops, tablets. Oh my! Digital devices are everywhere! According to a report by eMarketer, the average adult spends 5 hours and 16 minutes a day in front of a screen.

If adults spend that much time on digital devices, how much time do kids spend on their devices?  If your child is anything like mine, they probably have their phone/Ipod/Ipad on them at all times.   So that means that as parents, we need to set a good example and create guidelines that we follow through with, not just for our own sanity, but, for our kid’s safety as well.

Here are “10 Tips for Parenting the Digital Child.” These tips were collected by Tim Shininger, LCSW, LMFT. Tim is the clinic director/psychotherapist at Comprehensive Counseling Services in Port Washington, WI.

1. Be good role models for using digital devices.

2. Establish and clarify family rules about devices as early as possible in your child’s life. Changing or tightening the rules is more difficult later in your child’s life.

3. Maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with your children about the internet, social networking, the dangers of cyber-bullying, and the addictiveness of online pornography.

• Cyber-bullying:  Stress how important it is for your children to come to you if they’re bullied or treated disrespectfully online.

• Teach your children healthy sexuality and stress the importance – especially for your sons – of avoiding online pornography.

4. Limit screen time – TV, cell phone, PC, laptop, iPad/iPod, etc.

5. Place home computers in common areas like living rooms and family rooms.

6. Delay your child’s access to social networking sites and Smartphones until middle school or high school. If you want your under-age-12 child to have a cell phone for emergencies, consider a basic cell phone and shut off internet access with parent controls.

7. Enable parental controls on all devices (i.e., PCs, laptops, Smartphones). For children 12 and under, consider shutting off internet access on handheld devices. For teens 13 and older, consider using internet blocking/filtering software (i.e., CovenantEyes.com).

8. Monitor screen time, including email and texts. Randomly reviews apps and internet sites on their Smartphones/iPads/laptops. Establish clear guidelines about your teen having access to and using social networking sites such as Facebook.

9. If problems occur for teens, consider using an accountability service (CovenantEyes.com) to monitor internet use on computers and smartphones.

10. Know your children’s friends and their parents, and know what they’re doing when they’re at their friends’ homes. Common exposure to online pornographic images is likely to occur at a peer’s home.