Are you starting to feel like you forgot to bolt the fence and now the horses have not only gotten out, but they are running amok all over town?! It is ok, you aren’t the only one and it really isn’t too late. It may take a little bit of work to rein everyone back in, but it will definitely be worth the effort and the positive mental health of putting some controls on the chaos that comes with social media & technology.
Technology and social media have many great advantages. Especially during a pandemic when many people feel like their options, and their world suddenly got very small, very fast. Enjoying the benefits of first-world living, then having our reality changed this suddenly was a pretty wild wake up call. No less so than for our young children.
So we turned to our technology and social media outlets to cope with the emotional roller coaster that ensued. However, as we come to terms in our own unique ways some parents are beginning to ask, “how much of this stuff is too much?” As we navigate through online homeschooling and work from home schedules our entire world now seems to be pushed online in one giant shove through a screen-based environment. Many of us don’t seem ready to cope socially or emotionally and neither do our children.
Now take into account the wide, relatively unregulated world of social media platforms. Our children have even more access to the virtual world “as it is” or even worse – filtered through fantasy-based images to disguise darker realities and ambitions. With parents busy juggling new remote work schedules, stressing about finances, and doing their best to manage childcare in-between it all, how can they find the energy to scroll through numerous devices to see if passwords and parental locks were upheld and the latest eDesigner’s material didn’t get through to corrupt their young ones’? Parents and caregivers are struggling with how to keep up with the technology all at the same time.
The answer – relationships. The key to putting the padlock back on the fence is the relationship we have with our children. Taking the time to sit down and talk to our children about our family values, to warn them of the dangers that not only exist in the real world, but in the virtual one too. It also involves looking at our child’s other relationships. To know when children are of an age, an understanding and have demonstrated the social maturity to handle having a device without us being right next to them before we allow them to join social media. This looks like being a good friend at school (caring to siblings/ family members), a good team player in extracurriculars and responsible helper at home.
Using those relationships to establish contracts of trust, written & signed, and enforcing them with our children with real-world consequences when they are violated. This way our children learn while still under the safety and protection of our home and our care. We know they will make mistakes, we hope they do, and we will be there to help them. Let your little colts run and explore, just make sure they do so within the safety of the fences you build.
Looking for ideas on social media and technology use contracts? While there are countless templates on Pinterest, Facebook, and more here are some basic steps to keep in mind;
- Keep communication open because this is key to learning how your child is managing and when they may be in trouble and need help.
- Set boundaries and re-visit them. Boundaries need to be clear, if you are vague it will be hard for both you and your child to know if they are following them.
- Set a good example. This can be hard to follow, but if you can’t stick to the rules you set why should your children respect them? Example: Devices off and plugged in at 9pm
- Educate yourself; things change constantly. If your child talks about a new app or media have them show you how it works and then learn more on your own. Don’t ever give a blind yes or no.
- Talk to other parents; we are each other’s greatest allies. The parents of your child’s friends are helpful – you can work together to determine if something is getting out of hand or reassure/reinforce if something is good.