Make this your parenting mantra: Less connectivity, more communication.
#1 Plugged-In Parenting
A study published last year, led by child behaviour expert and paediatrician Jenny Radesky, found that its participants—caregivers, including moms, dads, and grandmothers—consistently experienced internal tension resulting from technology use. Some caregivers revealed that negative online encounters shaped their responses to the children in their lives, while others reported negative interactions with children competing with mobile devices for their attention.
“You don’t have to be available to your children 100 percent of the time—in fact, it’s healthy for them to be independent. It’s also important for parents to feel relevant at work and other parts of their lives,” says Radesky. “However, we are seeing parents overloaded and exhausted from being pulled in so many different directions.” The solution is simple: unplug, and do it often.
#2 New Guidelines For Screen Time
If you’re formulating new cyber-rules for the new year, look to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines, which were recently revamped. One notable change: Doing away with the long-revered “No Screens Under 2” recommendation. In its place is the suggestion that screens are acceptable for little ones (aged 18 months and under), but only during “live” video chats.
Other AAP recommendations:
For children aged two to five, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programmes. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For children aged six and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviours essential to health.
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
#3 Augmented Reality
Pokémon GO was just the beginning of AR going mainstream. More game designers are looking at ways to merge physical and digital play, and educators are assessing AR’s relevance in the classroom. Less enthused about AR is psychologist and addiction specialist Nicholas Kardaras. “While we can argue the benefits of VR and AR for consenting adults, as a psychologist who has researched and clinically worked with over a thousand kids over the past 15 years, what does seem clear is that such intensive and immersive reality-blurring is not age-appropriate for young children who are still developing their sense of what is real and what isn’t,” he warns.
Once again, parents get to exercise their discretion about what kids should be exposed to, when, and for how long. Have dinner table conversations about what’s “real” and what’s not. Teach kids to self-regulate and practise moderation—these are life skills that will ensure they’ll always be in control, and not just over technology.
#4 Fake News
If adults can get it wrong, so can kids. Yet, we need our children to understand that although mistakes are inevitable, as information sharers, we must remain responsible. If your children have social media accounts, teach them to assess the credibility of online information, using analytical frameworks such as S.U.R.E.:
Source: Look at its origins. Is it trustworthy?
Understand: Know what you’re reading. Search for clarity.
Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source.
Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement.
#5 The Age Of Trump
There’s no denying it: Donald Trump has behaved in ways we wouldn’t want our children to, even online, and chances are high that going forward, kids will be paying attention. These are uncertain times and no one can predict what the future will bring, yet we are not powerless. We are our children’s role models; we can encourage them to question what they read, hear, or see, and we can use these opportunities to reaffirm our values and beliefs about appropriate conduct, as well as help them realise that not everyone will feel or act in the same way.