‘5 pieces of advice’ for parenting young people and their digital devices

5 pieces of advice

At the request of the Campus des Nations Parent-Teacher Association at a recent meeting, I am sharing ‘5 pieces of advice’ for parenting young people and their digital devices. I have tried to keep the advice general as the names of apps/games/devices change so regularly. Engagement, openness, discussion and understanding are the key to having a positive relationship with young people and their digital devices.

All of this advice changes with the age of the young people involved!

Own the device

“If you paid for it, pay the bill/subscription for it, or it is kept in your house – it is yours and therefore can say when, where and how it is used.”

As a parent you get to say when and where a digital device can be used and for how long. I believe that an hour before bed with no digital device is a good idea and can promote healthy sleep. A laptop purchased to meet the requirements of the school’s BYOB programme – should be just that – a device used to support learning and not something loaded with games and videos.

Use of 'space'

“Digital devices used away from communal areas – such as a child keeping their device in their bedroom overnight – will cause issues.”

Digital devices should be keep away from bedrooms during the night, maybe the whole families devices could be charged in one central location. I believe that, where possible, digital device use should be in the communal areas of the home and not in bedrooms with closed doors.

Most modern routers (the box that provides your home with WiFi) have settings to allow you to limit and stop access to the internet for named devices at certain times of the day. It should be possible to have it set up so that a child can not access the internet after a certain time.

Engage with digital technologies

“Engage with digital technologies so you can understand why your children want to use them so much. Reflect on why you use your digital devices so much, reflect on what you did as a young person, how you shared photos, played video games etc.”

Digital devices are important to young people. They may understand them and feel more comfortable with them than you! Build a better understanding by engaging with the technology. Get your child to ‘teach’ you the game they are playing or share the funniest video they saw that day. Show your child how to use the calendar on the device to organise their time. Model for your child the correct use of email and messaging services.

Have regular conservations about digital technologies and all the issues they create. The weekly post on Digital Technologies at Nations Facebook page will provide ideas for suggestions to have and questions to be asking.

Good screen time and bad screen time

“Which would you rather see your child do? Spend an hour passively watching television/videos or spend an hour developing their understanding and knowledge of strategies involved in a complex game? There is such a thing as good and bad screen time!”

My son was spending too much time on his device watching YouTube videos. The device has been provided for messaging/communication, playing (worthwhile) games and creating digital content. So after a conversation with him, YouTube has been removed/blocked. I then spent some time showing my son Hearthstone – a digital card game with spells, warriors, wizards and the like. I would prefer him to spend his digital time playing a game of strategy – rather than just watching digital videos.

Have the password, open it, look at it, understand it

“Trust is always important but you should know the passwords to your child’s devices and accounts and be willing to spend some time looking at what they are doing.”

Either in the presence of your child or not – you should regularly spend some time looking through their devices and the accounts they use. Are they accessing websites that are appropriate? What sort of videos are they watching? What is the language like in the messaging groups they are in? Have they installed applications that you do not understand the reason for? What have they been downloading?