How to be more aware of your kids’ internet habits

As parents, we are expected to juggle so many different roles and responsibilities plus the added pressure we experience through attention-seeking social media and digital activities. This can feel quite daunting, right? Most young children are watching their own family’s digital “reality show” from the comfort of their pram or walking-ring: seeing how mom can watch an Instagram video while cooking dinner, change a nappy while leaving a voice note and doing her makeup just to have the Zoom call (with the work outfit on the top half, and PJs and slippers on the bottom half).

Considering the example we set, children will likely mimic their parents, which is why we should digitally lead by example and try to do the following:

  • Make eye contact when your child asks you something and be fully present in that moment.
  • Disconnect from your devices during breakfast, lunch and dinner times and use these opportunities to have meaningful conversations.
  • Teach your children about screen time and having digital boundaries in terms of your availability, the platforms you use to communicate on and who you allow into your space.

Choose age-appropriate devices for your child by looking at age restrictions before you install anything.

When it comes to technology:

  • Choose age-appropriate devices for your child by looking at age restrictions before you install anything. Also, teach your child to respect the rules of the platform. In this way, you are putting the emphasis on truth, honesty and trust instead of restrictions. For instance: If it is not okay to lie to your parents then it is not okay to lie about your age and identity online.
  • If you give your child a cellphone, remember that they don’t need a SIM card unless they are expected to manage phone calls.
  • Ensure that your security and privacy settings are set up correctly on all devices and the apps you use.

Parents on couch with child holding a tablet

  • Set time limits to teach them screen time management. Be creative and use marbles or small balls (e.g. each representing 20 minutes with a total of two hours) and keep them in a glass jar. These are taken out of the jar as your child spends their time watching TV shows or playing games.
  • YouTube, Netflix and Showmax aren’t the best babysitters if you are not involved in the viewing choices your children make. Be critical about the language, behaviour and images they get exposed to. Moral and ethical issues could create confusion and that is where parental guidance comes in.
  • Use parental control apps to help you do the above. There are many free and paid-for options like Kaspersky SafeKids. You can search the app store to see which option will work best for you.

Parents helping daughter use tablet for homework

Stand strong

You might have to remind your child that you are their parent and not their friend and that it is your responsibility and an absolute pleasure to do whatever it takes to protect them from any online dangers.

May you feel encouraged and take up the marvellous role of digital parenting, with a new dose of courage and spark.

Rianette Leibowitz of Cyber Wellness with Rianette
Passionate about sharing messages. TV & Radio Presenter, ChangeAgent for SaveTNet Cyber Safety, Accredited Public Relations Professional