In the age of the Internet, parenting is not as straightforward as it used to be back in the TV age! In those days, kids didn't even have TVs in their bedrooms and parents could easily monitor what they watched and set viewing time limits.
With the Internet, it's not only impossible to monitor what your kids or grandchildren are doing all the time but also you know darned well that there are some big dangers lurking out there, which could put their safety and wellbeing at risk. The trouble is that children are not always alert to those risks.
With this in mind, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), a campaigning watchdog group has just published what it calls 7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting. Here they are:
1. Talk with your kids. Yes, they may resent parental interference but there has to be a frequent dialog in which you calmly raise Internet safety issues openly and directly.
2. Educate yourself. You can’t talk about the dangers unless you know what they are! Research what you don’t understand and try out apps and games for yourself.
3. Use parental controls. Many devices and software applications allow you to restrict when users can access the Internet and which sites they can visit. Use them!
4. Set ground rules and agree sanctions. In addition to using parental controls, agree to rules on Internet usage and the sanctions for misuse with your kids. If they break the rules, they'll know what's coming.
5. Friend and follow them but don't stalk. Link up with your children on social media but respect their online space. Don't overdo it, but encourage them to create a good digital reputation.
6. Explore, share and celebrate. Look for opportunities to go online together. Show a willingness to learn from them!
7. Be a good digital role model. Set a good example to your children and grandchildren in the way you use your computer, limiting your own usage, showing courtesy to others and posting responsibly.
FOSI has a number of downloadable tools and documents, including do-it-yourself device-user contracts that children can be asked to sign. Find them, together with other useful links to explanatory website pages and tip sheets, at https://tinyurl.com/FOSI-download.
The organization also offers a guide for young people to check their online privacy settings, create good passwords, and update software.