#childsafety | Keeping children safe in digital environment

Parents have to decide what is good or bad for their children when it comes to using digital devices

Almost every child from a certain age uses a digital device connected to the internet, meaning parents have to deal with a whole new aspect of parenting i.e. Digital Parenting.
Parents have to decide what is good or bad for their children when it comes to using digital devices, how much control is appropriate and how to ensure children are safe in the digital environment.

There should be a better understanding of digital parenting, especially the roles of mother and father in protecting children. Online women or child abuse cases are increasing by the day and the India IT Act (Law) has loose ends which perpetrators take advantage of and go scot-free.

Let’s take an example that you have a teenage girl or child who has put a photograph on social media or a status in any of the messaging apps, a single comment could lead to a suicidal ideation as the saying goes, “Sticks and stones can only break the bones … but words can kill you.”

Types of parenting:

Authoritative: This is the perfect parenting model — It has a decent balance between setting boundaries with your child and giving them space to grow. How is this beneficial in building my child’s digital resilience?
• You act as a guide and tell them you’re older than them and have the experience to help them tackle their online issues
• You are willing to listen to your child’s views and validate their feelings
• You give your child a sense of containment and ensure your child feels a sense of security and allow them to take risks
• You are giving them the control to navigate online world but ensuring they are also safe by having the right safeguards in place
• A child of an authoritative parent have the respect of their parents and also respects their parents

Authoritarian: This is a ‘my way or the hard way’ style of parenting and why this may be challenging? It can be damaging as you are minimising a child’s opportunity to deal with technology and also minimising feelings about their flexibility and their determination. What could I do differently?
• Spend more time listening to your child
• Validate them for what they’re doing
• Allow them to have more say in the way their lives are run

Permissive: This is when you want to be your child’s best friend and why this may be challenging? A child’s self-esteem is dependent on boundaries and expectations. If they don’t have any boundaries or consistency, this can be problematic as they won’t feel a sense of containment and they don’t have the ability to self-parent. What could I do differently?
• Practice setting boundaries and implementing rules
• Openly talk to your child about your expectations of online behaviour, what they’re getting online, who they’re talking to and explain why you’re establishing rules
• Don’t be afraid of not being liked by your child, you need to be a parent and keep them safe online

Neglectful: You completely leave your child and not bothered by what they are doing with their own devices. Why this may be challenging? Without parent supervision, it can encourage a child to solely depend on themselves and be more susceptible to experience online risks. What could I do differently?
• Create time for your child and their online world
• Get involved and find out what they are doing online
• Have regular conversations, If you are struggling to parent your child, you may need to seek help such as talking to psychiatrist or a class teacher or a social worker

Internet Safety – Advice for parents of young children

Effects on behaviour of children

• Constant use of a device and features like auto-play on platforms can be habit forming and encourage children be spend longer screen times
• Speech or language delay • Attention deficits • Learning problems • Childhood depression

Effect on the Brain

• Longer screens can have a drug-like effect (Smartphone Addiction) on the children’s brains which can make them more anxious
• It can make children more forgetful (with diminishing ability for multi-tasking) as they rely on things such as Google, GPS and calendar alerts for information, even find it hard to memorise phone numbers of family members

Effect on Sleep

• Blue light from phones tricks the brain into thinking it’s daylight making it challenging to sleep

Benefits of screen time

• Gives children access to a variety of information to shape their knowledge
• Technology takes away physical barriers to social connections to make our children less isolated
• Online games and activities enhance teamwork and creativity
• Children have better motor skills
• Improved cognitive skills
• Better competition skills

Stay Tuned to Cyber Talk Column for Part – II of Digital Parenting by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org


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