This post is going to make me sound like a right hypocrite but I’m weighing in with the do as I say not as I do card. Mum Rights and all that. You see, I’m a mum of 3 boys who love their devices, the youngest not so much as he’s on strict and easy to govern rules, the teenagers – sheesh! But here’s the tricky bit; my job means I spend most of my working time online and when I’m not working, I’m paying bills, shopping, reading & chatting to my friends and family on WhatsApp or messenger.
I live and breathe online, even my gym and run sessions have an online element via the apps I use, which makes me preaching to my kids about managing the amount they spend online a little weird and super hypocritical.
I guess the angle I’m coming from though, is from this; I’ve seen how inactive my boys are when using the internet and they simply haven’t got the self-discipline which I have on making sure they’re balancing out their online time with some active. It’s not just about phones, Play Stations and PC’s in the home too. I’m worried about how much of actual life they’re missing out on, from the car journey conversations we don’t have as they’re glued to their screens, or the days out they’re more interested in snap chatting rather than being in the moment.
We do have rules, like no phones at the dinner table, my youngest having very limited iPad time and my 13-year-old has an hour screen-free time before bed. I’ve suggested this to my 17-year-old son but that’s the age where I’ve really had to loosen the reins. The lightbulb moment came though, after finding out that children aged 5 to 15 are spending an average of 15 hours a week on the web, my teens, rather worryingly, can easily nudge over 15 hours when they’ve added in a lazy weekend.
One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use and while the framework isn’t so suitable for my 3-year-old, it is a reminder to keep his iPad time limited especially when I’ve seen the change in his behaviour when he comes off even after 15 minutes.
So my main concerns centre around how to manage the amount of time my 13 and 17-year-old spend online while both at home and at school.
I’m starting with empowering my guys to manage their own time, helping them to be mindful of how much they use their phones (the above digital 5 a day is the best resource for this) and tasking them to:
- make sure they have complete screen free time before bed
- make sure they’re active and sedentary times are balanced
- regularly talk about staying safe online
There’s also some other options to explore, including installing extra security onto all devices, like Kaspersky Security Cloud, which gives parent’s the option to manage and adjust their children’s screen time, select which websites they can see, and stay informed of their whereabouts via GPS. As much as I’d love to think my children can be trusted, it’s still my role as their parent to set boundaries.
They know how to use privacy settings, as well as the report and block functions on the websites, social media channels and apps they use. But it’s also up to me to be on top of my game. It helps that I do know a thing or two about social media, but even the SnapChat ghosting update had me surfing the web to understand it, make sure I was properly clued up and able to discuss making sure they weren’t oversharing to strangers. Ironically, it was via some Facebook posts that I found out about it!
It’s safe to say I’m a pro of the whole online world. I’ll argue the benefits of its corner to anyone, but I also see the dangers and how the flip side is one where my boys live in a virtual world more than the real one. So it all comes down to balance, in a nutshell, and using what tools there are available to help you and your kids make sure they’re getting that balance as well as keeping safe online at all times.
And if I need to bring out the mum card to remind my boys that Mother Knows Best, then I will!