Trying to control our child’s use of modern technology presents a relatively new parenting task. The internet is both a gold mine and a jungle. Separating the blessings from the problems can be very hard to do.
Taking away their cellphones and forbidding access is not usually a wise strategy. In addition to preventing contact with their peers and searching for useful information, it may foster resentment and encourage sneakiness. Here are four approaches which may help you monitor cellphones and computer use without appearing to take over.
First and most important, understand what your children are doing on the internet, not what you think they are doing. Get with them. Show an interest in how they actually use their phone. Inquire about their favorite sites. Let them tell you why they like certain games. How to text. What do the different emojis mean? Ask for their help in unscrambling problems with your own device.
Second, focus on the positives. Encourage Google searches to find information and answers to questions that arise, even trivial ones. Explore creative games, like Minecraft and so many others. Find sites that pose riddles and tell jokes. Check out and share favorite music on YouTube.
Third, take advantage of "phone-free" time zones. Some parents feel their children spend "all the time" on their cellphones. In that case, avoid lecturing and forbidding. Instead, set aside a time for cellphone and computer use and simply shut down the computer or collect the phones during the “zone.” Several parents I know take their child’s phone away at bedtime. And at mealtime.
Fourth, plan other activities. Too much cellphone use often is accompanied by physical passivity and couch potato-ism. To combat this tendency, take a pro-active role in out-of-home cooperative play. Get them enrolled in team sports and attend their games. Take hikes and exercise together. Encourage dance or music or swim lessons, wherever they might show an interest. And support them with your presence.
To sum up, see cellphones and the internet as a gift with some problems. Focus on the positives and counteract cellphone abuse with attractive alternatives.