Parent’s Guide for Raising Healthy Kids in the Digital Age

There’s no doubt about our kids being born digitally native, but that still doesn’t mean that we should leave their technical upbringing up to chance. Quite the contrary, teaching them how to approach technology in the safest and most beneficial way has never been more important. Without basic comprehension of how the online environment works, our little iGens would simply be lost.

Yet, it’s not tech-savviness that parents should worry about. With or without our supervision, today’s children will have no problem learning how to use smartphones, tablets and notebooks; it’s their reasonable and secure application that should be our number one concern. The internet really is a bottomless pit, and without a responsible adult to prepare a safety net for little explorers to jump into, it can be damaging in so many ways.

Here’s a couple of suggestions for digital immigrants – because, in comparison to our naturally endowed youngsters, that’s what we all are – to consider and put into practice. Hopefully, these will make both your children and yourself a little less exposed to the digital media’s worst.

1. Take a Middle Ground

Young children using a tablet computer while their happy parents

When faced with digital education, most parents experiment with a fight-or-flight approach. Anyone who’s tried isolating their children from bad influences inflicted by the internet now understands that that’s completely impossible. But, if fighting the digital age is the same as fighting windmills, then should we simply stop and flee? However obvious the answer, parents usually choose to neglect it.

There is, luckily, a middle ground. Technology will always have both positive and negative aspect to it, and it’s up to us to enable our children to see the difference. Like always in those formative years, that means modelling good values by your own example, using everyday experiences to make a point, acknowledging good behaviour and holding them accountable for bad behaviour.

2. Always Be Involved

With things evolving so fast, we were sadly unequipped to monitor and control millennial demeanour. Fortunately, the Generation Y has made us a bit wiser, and we now have a chance of righting our wrongs. There’s nothing holding us back from establishing a proper educational model for our pre-teens, which is why choosing not to get involved in surfing, browsing, blogging, mingling and tweeting is simply irresponsible.

What it all comes down to is not so much supervised as joint use of tech devices – kids will never stop playing video games, watching YouTube videos and scrolling Facebook, but spending time with them as they do it and showing genuine interest will make a difference. That way, you’ll be able to use concrete examples from your mutual online experiences, and show your kids good from bad right on the spot.

3. Agree to Disagree

Parents across the world have already started establishing Family Internet Agreements. Though an informal document, we write it with capital letters simply because it should seem legitimate when we present it to our kids. It will, of course, be about limiting screen time and certain types of online content, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun about it.

Be sure to put a couple of points that address your own digital behaviour, a clause that forbids you from using a computer after 7 p.m. or a term that says you have to do it together, for instance. Make an official family stamp and let your kids sign the contract with feather and ink. While little and still immature, children love being treated as grown-ups, and this agreement will prove to them that you do.

4. Stay Proactive & Healthy

Being protected from the cyberdanger is paramount, but so is being safe from technology-inflicted health hazards. Sedentary lifestyle has never been a bigger issue, and it certainly doesn’t do any good for our efforts to keep them healthy.

If not prevented while kids are still developing, it leads to serious problems at a later age and sets the ground for adolescent struggles and many common illnesses in college students. Apart from teaching them how to use technology in a suitable way, we should also work on teaching them how to act while doing so.

That’s why your Family Internet Agreement should definitely include a health clause that will deal with how many minutes your kids are permitted to spend in front of the screen before taking a quick walk. Also, think about establishing a gaming zone that will be set up in a way that doesn’t hurt your child’s sight and posture, and make it clear that it’s the only area in the house where consoles are allowed.

5. Offer Variety

Once your little ones put their school backpacks on and join the flock, you’ve already reached the point of no return. As a social phenomenon, digital behaviour is quite contagious, which is why you should use the chance to make them immune while they are still very young. Still, banning technology from the house is not a solution. Instead, try giving them options to choose from.

Schedule tech-free times! To be tactical about it, avoid straightforward gadget prohibition and offer them something they won’t be able to refuse. Turn “No games during dinner time” into “Let’s cook together”. Engage them with activities that pre-tech kids like ourselves used to enjoy – actual cardboard games instead of digital ones, a football league instead of FIFA 17, a Harry Potter book instead of the movie marathon. Make sure that the whole family is included, and there’s no chance that they won’t have a great time.

Ultimately, it’ the only way of sparking their interest for things beyond the online environment. Kids will always have natural propensity toward sports, arts and crafts, and it’s our duty to show them that nothing can give them greater pleasure or make them more vigorous, imaginative and happy.

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