Going Online and Offline with Your Tween
Helping your tweens to use technology and the internet safely and wisely.
We live in a hyper-connected world where technology is an inevitable part of our daily lives. We use tech tools for work and play. A 2014 survey by the Infocomm Authority of Singapore showed that most Singaporean households have internet access and increasingly use their smartphones to go online – turning to the internet for communication, leisure and also as an information source.
It’s no surprise then, that today’s children are digital natives who have fully embraced technology and the internet, using it in every facet of their lives. Your tween might post a selfie, ponder her breakfast menu and chat with a few friends - all online, before she even emerges from her room in the morning.
Here are some ideas on how you can guide your tweens to manage their tech use and make it a positive tool for the family.
While parents are technology and internet users themselves, it’s important to recognise that adults often use these tools quite differently from tweens. Even relatively tech savvy parents who frequently use email and social media can be heard complaining that they don’t understand much of the ‘text-speak’ used by their kids, and they might even be unaware of their online activities.
Keeping abreast of the latest games, internet applications, lingo and online trends that are popular with tweens is a necessity and doesn’t have to be a tedious process. A quick internet search will bring up articles and research on the topic for your easy reading!
Perhaps the biggest concern that parents have is the lack of control over what their children access online, or being unable to protect them from undesirable influences. In addition to online bullies and sexual predators, there is the possibility of coming across gory or pornographic images.
While most websites and social media apps offer a channel to report improper use, the sheer volume of internet traffic results in much of this unsavoury material remaining online. Thus parents need to proactively set boundaries around tech and internet usage, and teach their children proper netiquette to ensure their online safety. These are some ideas you can use:
- Use age-appropriate filters to all internet-enabled tech gadgets including smart phones, smart TVs and computers.
- Consider shifting shared family devices like desktop computers to a communal area, where your teen can be loosely monitored, without you actually hovering over him or her.
- Have a chat about online safety with your teen. Discuss what information they can reveal online, what should be withheld, in order to protect their privacy.
More useful tips on how to handle tweens and technology... on the next page!
However, you don’t need to shut technology and the internet out of your homes entirely (your teenager will probably access it elsewhere if you try!) The key is to find shared experiences that you both enjoy, and use it as an opportunity to communicate with each other.
In fact, technology can facilitate some of the best parent-child bonding moments. One mother shared that she enjoys looking up recipes online together with her teenager, and they’ve cooked some delicious meals for the whole family as a result. Online video communication tools are also an excellent way to keep in touch with family and friends abroad.
Adults regularly use tech gadgets and the internet as productivity tools. Show your teen that technology can be more than just a source of entertainment; it can be used to work and study more efficiently as well. At this age, your child is beginning to learn to work independently, multitask and manage their own time – skills that will equip them for working life in the future. Introduce apps, programs and other tools that will help them to work smarter, setting them on the path to becoming more efficient in all that they do.
Even as you acknowledge the efficacy and entertainment that technology brings, teach your child the importance of ‘going offline’ and being present in the activity they are currently engaged in. You may want to:
- Have a Digital Detox Weekend where the entire family stays away from tech devices, and bonds in other ways.
- Declare screen-free zones in the home, to facilitate better communication and bonding as a family – the dining table and living room where everyone gathers regularly, is a good place to start.
- Retire your devices for the night. Request that your tweens hand over their devices at a stipulated time each night before bedtime, to ensure that they aren’t using them excessively, and so they can get a good rest!
Perhaps the best strategy of all is to keep communicating with your child. Talk to them about what they’re watching or playing on online and even share new tech gadgets or games you’ve discovered. Have open discussions when tech or internet related news appear in the media – even awkward and uncomfortable issues such as internet sex scams can be a chance to learn about internet safety. Rather than focusing on controlling your teen’s use of technology and the internet, shift your mindset to how it can be a new way to bond and learn together as a family.
Interested in a workshop that enables you to teach your children about media discernment? If your desire is to remain deeply connected and involved in the lives of your adolescent children, sign up for Parenting with Confidence for ages 13-19 today.