Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Amy Williams
Whether you are dusting off your stockings to hang by the chimney with care or perfecting the art of frying golden latkes, giving gifts is a staple of the holiday season for many people. As families draw together, cherish traditions, and celebrate their beliefs it is easy for our children to devise a wish list of gadgets and toys they dream of unwrapping. For many parents, they are noticing that at the top of the present list is often a form of technology in the guise of a digital device.
Unwrapping Technology: Is My Child Ready?
Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and more might be a pixelated holiday dream for your child. It is believed that 75 percent of children aged under eight have access to devices classified as “smart” and 78 percent of teens possess their own cell phones. Unfortunately, many children and teens are not developmentally ready or responsible enough to have the world at their fingertips via wi-fi and social media.
If a child is not ready for the responsibility that comes with receiving digital devices this holiday season, their anticipated gift might download a whole new set of problems and heartbreak during the new year. Before gifting a new device, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my son or daughter able to be responsible for their belongings?
- Does my child understand social media and the permanence of the Internet?
- Can he or she make sound or reasonable judgments?
- Have we addressed social media etiquette in our family?
6 Ways To Ring In A Happy Holiday Season
If you were able to say “yes” to the above questions with little hesitation, then your child might be ready to handle a new digital device. For many parents, it is important to understand the impact of allowing our kids a passport to digital citizenship. We need to realize that high levels of connectivity open our children up to a world of online predators, disappearing messages, cyberbullies, and sexting opportunities.
Here are six tips to help our children enjoy their digital devices this holiday season:
- Create a contract for the family that lists all expectations and consequences of using technology.
This is important, because it allows parents and children to discuss digital responsibilities which will eventually prevent arguments and disagreements down the road.
- Avoid allowing digital devices in bedrooms.
Besides the obvious benefit of deterring risky online behaviors, this step can ensure a child is able to get adequate sleep or enjoy time away from a glowing screen.
- Sit down with children and walk them through the process of choosing their privacy settings. It sounds relatively simple, but many of our teens are not protected. Don’t let your child suffer, because they forgot to add a password or turn off their location tracking.
- Begin an ongoing discussion regarding digital etiquette and how to behave online. Start simple and as a child grows, be sure to include topics like online predators, identity theft, and cyberbullying.
- Don’t leave a child’s well being up to chance- take advantage of monitoring software. You wouldn’t give a 16 year old the keys to a car without a few driving lessons. Why would you allow a child to use the Internet or technology without parental guidance? Go high-tech and use convenient programs to track a child’s phone and Internet activity. As a child demonstrates good choices, scale back this process.
- One of the best ways to protect our children is to have a firm understanding of the dangers lurking behind our children’s technology. Did you know that sexting is considered a normal part of development? How about the facts that cyberbullying rates are rising and have tripled within the last year? By knowing the facts, you can help bully proof your child or take measures to avoid heartbreak.
All parents, regardless of what holiday we celebrate, want their child to safely chat and snap selfies with their friends long after the dreidels and decorations are packed away. If your child is begging for a new digital device this holiday season, taking a few precautions today will ensure many more happy celebrations to come.
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Congressman Paul Tonko represents New York’s 20- See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen#sthash.SvhQiqNg.dpuf
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Amy Williams is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. She believes that, in our digital age, it's time for parents and educators to make sure parents and students alike are educated about technology and social media use. You can follow her on Twitter.