Children and young people are spending an increasing amount of time online and using devices at a younger age.
Reports of a rise in mental health issues have been linked to the use of social media sites. The media have highlighted stories of teens being addicted to their phones and social media influencers have spoken about the ‘toxic environment’ and pressures that they are under due to look a certain way online with some celebrities going to ‘drastic’ measures to delete social media apps. At the same time, young people can benefit so much from being online by being connected to each other.
Thrive Academy is an organisation which aims to help young people thrive online by becoming more digitally resilient. Dr Deborah Webster from Thrive Academy recently visited Aiglon College and delivered workshops for all the year groups, from the Junior School up to Years 12 and 13, as well as for teachers and parents.
In this article, she shares seven ways parents can help their children to thrive online, navigate this digital space and establish positive relationships with devices.
Seven ways to help your child Thrive online:
1. Start well – when a new device is purchased, ensure it is set up properly. This includes age-appropriate settings and search engine content restrictions. Parent apps are also useful to limit screen time and approve apps that a young person wants to use.
2. Talk to your child regularly about what they are doing on their phone or other device. Ask them about the apps they are using; who they are communicating with; what they are enjoying about it. Remind them that if they ever come across anything that they feel uncomfortable with, even if they feel it is their own fault, they can talk to you about it.
3. Develop healthy habits in the home for all the family. For example, not using devices at the dinner table, whether that be in the home or when eating out. Create times and spaces in the family home which are screen free for everyone. Work hard at incorporating non-screen time activities into family life such as board game nights, sports, camping trips or other hobbies and interests.
4. Designate a charging station where devices can be charged overnight. Adolescents will sleep much better without having their devices in their bedrooms at night-time. It can disrupt their sleep, which is critical to their physical and emotional development at this stage in life.
5. Decide on age-appropriate boundaries and keep to them. How you parent a 16-year-old is very different to how you parent a 10-year-old. But do remember that your child, whether aged 10 or 16, are still growing, and have time until they reach adulthood. If your child feels that the boundaries or limits you have put in place are unfair or unreasonable (which they probably will!) remind them that these are temporary and will grow and stretch as they grow older and mature.
6. Reflect on your own behaviour – perhaps the most challenging part for us parents! Consider your own relationship with your device – is it a healthy balance? Children copy what they see, no matter how young they are. There are things we can all do better to model positive relationships with our devices.
7. Get yourself informed! Parents and carers do have a responsibility to help their children in this area and there is plenty of advice available. There are plenty of websites available for this purpose and why not consider attending a Parent Workshop to find out more and make sure you are doing all you can to help your child thrive online.