At this point, society is far past the “rise” of the internet. Nowadays, nearly every form of screen time involves being online in some form. Streaming services, YouTube videos, online games, social media, and even schooling are done via phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions.
With so much access to the internet, it’s nearly impossible to be aware of every single piece of media your kids consume. So what can you do to make sure you’re being a responsible parent in terms of what your kids are watching?
Why Should You Monitor Some Amount of Screen Time?
There is a long list of the dangers of television and the internet. Age-inappropriate movies and shows can expose children to violence, sexual material, and unhealthy behaviors. When this happens before an adult has had the chance to help them understand what they’re seeing, it can be harmful.
Unmonitored access to the internet can lead to cyberbullying, radicalization, or vulnerability to predatory adults. Familiarize yourself with what kids have access to on popular channels and platforms so you can be aware of these risks.
But remember: there’s a huge difference between younger and older children. It’s important to approach this parenting hurdle from different angles, depending on how old your kids are. Younger ones will need more restrictions and monitoring. Use parental controls on phones and televisions to block certain content from reaching them.
View what you’re willing to have them watch ahead of time, so you know what they’ll be seeing. Try to stay away from sticking a screen in front of them as a distraction. You never know when YouTube will auto-play a video you might not want them to see.
But it’s sometimes best to give your older kids more freedom. Building trust between you is crucial to developing and maintaining a healthy relationship. Don’t be afraid to have conversations with your kids about what they might see online and give some context.
For example, if there’s a show that’s popular with adolescents that portrays an abusive relationship, talk to your child about it. Make sure they start to understand that what they’re seeing is made to be watchable and shouldn’t be idolized in real life.
Best Practices and Tips
Encourage your children to be productive while online or watching videos. Instead of mindlessly scrolling or binging a show, try to get them to engage with educational content. There are so many fun resources out there that can supplement the lessons they’re getting in school, and turning screen time into learning moments will enrich their official education.
Remember that totally controlling how much screen time your children are getting is fairly obsolete. Video content is everywhere, and it’s important to allow your kids to experience what their close friends are, so they’re not feeling isolated and kept in the dark about cultural references, movies, video games, and other popular entertainment.
Be reasonable. Develop your own clear set of rules for when it is appropriate to watch certain kinds of media. This will help them get an understanding of their own privacy and trust that you know what’s best for them.
Finally, prioritize family time at least once a week. By setting a schedule of something you all do together, such as a game night, going to the park, or making dinner together, you’ll model the importance of trust and family for your kids. This way you can keep screens off in the background. Shutting off the noise can help you foster this bonding time.