In the third of the New Horizon seminar series on Parenting, Katherine Hill the UK Director of Care for the Family looked at the challenges of parenting in a “digital age”.  Here Lisa Brown from the NH Media Team brings you a summary of what Katherine had to say.

There are all kinds of parents here. Married parents, co-parenting, single parent, adopted parents, grandparents and foster parents to name just a few. Some will be going through a time of greatness, filled with blessings and joys; others will be encountering a time of struggle.

 

Some children will be going through a very trying stage, and others will be experiencing textbook child, hitting all milestones for there age (at the minute). When it goes well, we think that it is due to our excellent parenting. But when the hard times hit, we assume that it is our fault and are terrible parents.

Neither is true, we shouldn’t take all the credit, but at the same time, we can’t take all the blame either. The biggest thing that we need to remember, no matter what stage we are currently experiencing, is that we have a God who loves us and will be with us and will support us throughout this journey.

We all come to a time when we enter into a new season as parents. There will always be those moments when we all have to shed a tear and experience difficult times.

We will be focusing today on how to handle the digital age for our children.

‘The most pressing issue that parents have been writing about to us at Care For The Family about is the digital age. We live in a digital age. It has its disadvantages, but also lots of advantages.

– It is relevant for all ages and stages, children do not have to rely on parents having the relevant books in the house, there are many books available online, nd most information can be found online for free. Children also have a network of friends online, and the ability to contact friends and family that are not in their immediate area.

– It has advantages for parents of children with additional needs, seeking support from others in a similar situation, sometimes on the other side of the world.

We want to look at some of the dangers that our children may encounter in order to help equip our children on how to handle these issues. We want to wrap them our children in cotton wool and keep them safe. And we certainly don’t want them to learn the hard way. The difficulty is, that more often than not, they know more about technology than we do. We feel like we are on the back foot when it comes to technology.

There are two types of online presences:

Digital visitor – a digital visitor would go on to the internet to do a task, then come off it again.

Digital residents – digital residents lives their lives online, for their networking, their communication etc.

We do not need to become digital residents in order to understand it, and we do not need to learn all the shorthand text that the youth of today would use.

The first challenge that we encounter is the sheer amount of time spent on screens. It was once said that children have two states, one is when they are asleep, the other when they are online. It has been proven that glowing screens late at night can be disruptive to a child’s sleeping patterns. We could also experience problems with obesity due to the sedentary lifestyle involved with long period of inactivity, and the growing problem of internet addiction.

The sheer amount of time that children spend online presents as the second challenge. So what can we do about it?

We need to be intentional about regulating time, to ensure that what we as adults do is age appropriate and appropriate for our family. We could get the children involved with limiting their own limits. It’s a stark reminder that we are not our children’s best friend, we are their parents, we might need to take a hit in the popularity stakes but boundaries are crucial. It’s not a straightjacket to hem our children in, it’s a seat belt to help keep them safe.

Massive brain development happens in teenage years.

Remember, we are role models, particularly in the use of technology. They watch us use our phones

Be positive, we can use technology to enrich family life. Spend family time together maybe going for a walk and ‘instagraming’ family pictures. Forcing our children to leave their devices at home to have family time can cause resentment, allowing them some controlled freedom can be beneficial, again it is for each family to decide what works and doesn’t work for them.

Other Concerns

Contact – who is it they are speaking to online?

Conduct – watch for them becoming more withdrawn, they might be being bullied, or maybe they are bullying someone else. The ‘selfie culture’ brings with it relentless pressure to create an online presence, and the habit of comparing their real life with that of their online friends who only show the highlights are both issues that may need addressed. Their mental health may suffer as a result.

Content – what they are seeing online?

Porn is all too easy to find online. Some children believe that porn is a way to find out about sex, not knowing the Biblical view of sex or understanding the importance of knowing that sex is not separate from a relationship.

‘Sexting’ is rife 37% of young people have sent a sexual image online. For many young people it is a pre curser for dating, if a girl sends a topless picture of herself and the recipient likes it, they might go on a date.

Good news is that as parents there is so much that we can do.

We can put safety nets in place. When they are little we put knives up high out of reach of danger. We need to be using secure passwords, using parental controls and putting boundaries in place for when and for how long technology can be used.

Make a family media agreement, talk all together to set boundaries. Frame it with what IS allowed, rather than focusing on what is NOT allowed. Key is just sitting down and chatting about it.

Unless we equip them to deal with these things themselves, they will only be as safe as the least protected friend.

Keep communicating with our children, ensuring that our talks happen little and often. It can be embarrassing but it’s worth it. We need to be talking to our children about what healthy relationships are like.

Our role as parents is to be positive. To equip them to use technology well, is to equip them to have freedom well.