Directing the Digital Drama

. September 1, 2020.

“Do not prepare the road for your child, prepare your child for the road.”

This practical piece of wisdom proves even truer when applied to cyber safety, which is more pertinent now more than ever as children spend more time on their screens than pre-coronavirus. 

Encourage self regulating and self monitoring 

Monica Abdelkodous, a school psychologist and mother of four, advises that conversations regarding digital responsibility should happen before electronics are introduced: “Encourage your child to self regulate and self-monitor. Praise his successes and talk through the short-comings.” 

Abdelkodous suggests that when your child fails to meet expectations, ask him to talk through his perspective, noting that his self-observation may provide insight and empower him to make better choices in the future. Set boundaries and limits and be consistent with enforcement.

Members of the MVCDS Upper School student support team, in discussing the issue, have the following suggestions for screen use: “…children’s brains are not fully developed, and…they are not able to regulate their own electronic usage. Adolescents need adult support…in using electronics responsibly and limiting excessive use. Implementing docking stations in the evening, in order to keep electronics limited during sleep time is a beneficial strategy. Parents can also help by modeling healthy electronic use and setting up ‘no electronic’ times for the entire family.”

Prepare your child 

Ultimately, straightforward and sincere talks about being a responsible digital citizen is how to “prepare your child for (avoiding dangerous parts of) the road.”  

Here are other practical tips for dealing with cyber safety? If you discover…

  1. Disturbing, destructive, or inappropriate content: Use this exposure as an opportunity for learning. Be ready to answer questions and take time to think about the message you want to convey to counteract the content your child saw. 
  2. Child unknowingly posts content that endangers him/her: Apps like Familylink can help by allowing you to set restrictions and alerting you to your child’s digital activity. Make certain your child understands the relative permanence of posted content.  
  3. Cyberbullying or predatory activity: Common Sense Media is an online resource to help you navigate the issues of cyberbullying and online predators.

Digital addiction: Look for signs of addiction, such as overreacting when s/he is not permitted to use a device or you limit screen time. The sooner you take steps to offset the addiction, the better self control your child can exercise.