In an ideal world, the conversation about your child’s technology use and your associated expectations would come before they are handed their first device. To be realistic, this is not always the case. Maybe you didn’t think to set limitations right away, or maybe you didn’t think you needed to.
It’s okay! You’re here now, and I promise that it is possible to set limits regardless of whether you do it from the start or after some time. Follow the tips below and you’ll be on your way towards knowing your child is safe online and is meeting your newly set expectations.
How to Break the News
Yes, it would have been much easier to let your kid’s know that there will be limits and restrictions on their technology use before they began using it. But, what if you didn’t have that conversation and they’ve already had a phone for weeks, months, or even years?
Talking to them about new expectations will be tricky, but if done the right way you will be able to both walk away with feelings of mutual respect. Here are just a few ways to help your teen understand your intentions and avoid their resentment.
Let your kids know you trust them.
One of the first things is saying to your teenager if you have decided to set limitations is that you trust them. They might not believe you at first, but after you explain that the people you don’t trust are those on the internet who may be trying to harm them your child may reach a new level of understanding. Trust is also a two-way-street; if you show them a bit of trust and leniency, it is likely that if a problem arises they will feel comfortable coming to you.
Be upfront about your expectations.
Let your kids know exactly what you plan to restrict, and if you intend to monitor their online activities. If you want to create a resentful teen, see what happens when they catch you spying. There is nothing wrong with monitoring your children’s location, messages, social media accounts and other online activity; however, they will be much less likely to see it as an infringement on their privacy if your upfront from the start.
Let them know the reasoning behind your actions.
Kids, especially teenagers, can follow logical thinking much better than we often give them credit for. When you explain to your kid what limitations you are setting, be prepared to answer the inevitable question “Why?” Use this as an opportunity to educate your kids on what specific dangers exist online, how to avoid them, and how the new rules relate.
Involve them in setting the rules.
It may be helpful to sit down together and create a technology contract with your child that lays out rules and expectations. Letting them actively contribute to the discussion and sincerely hearing them out might make them perceive the situation more positively. This is a great attitude-changer because it lets your kids know that you take them seriously and gives them a little bit of control.
Give them the best education possible.
Simply having a conversation about online safety might not be enough. You may want to also introduce other ways of educating your kids about the dangers that exist online. Check with your local school district to see if there are any local opportunities within a community education program; they might offer courses that go in-depth about preventing unsafe internet behavior.
Understand your attitude about the situation.
Take some time to reflect on what made you decide to start setting limits on your kid’s technology. It is also important as a parent to know where you stand on the continuum of freedom versus safety. If your child reacts negatively to the conversation, take a look at your own attitude to make sure you are setting fair expectations. While each family is unique, it might help to talk with other parents who have kids the same age to see what types of restrictions they have set.
Make sure they know that you understand that social media can be positive.
While social media platforms are easy to misuse, it is important to not focus exclusively on negative aspects with your child. Instead of only telling them how dangerous it can be, also let them know that establishing themselves in a professional way could potentially lead to great college and career opportunities down the road. When discussing teenage social media use, Marshall (n.d.) explains that “many (kids) are getting smarter about how they present themselves on social media, using Facebook to positively brand themselves for college and keeping multiple Instagram accounts for personal use or portfolio work.”
Set a good example with your technology use.
It is particularly important to let them see you intentionally spending time without using technology. If your kids see you glued to your phone constantly, they will likely do the same. While some technology is great, too much has been proven harmful. Some kids become so plugged into their phones, tablets, and other electronics that they never learn or feel comfortable with face-to-face communication (Marshall, n.d.). Don’t let this happen to your family and show your kids you’re serious by setting aside time each day where everybody in the family puts away their phone to enjoy each other’s company.
Hopefully, this collection of tips will get you started towards setting the necessary limitations on your teen’s technology use while balancing a positive and healthy relationship. Make sure to let your kids know they can always come to you with questions or problems they are experiencing online, or in other areas of their life.
Keep the conversation going about their activities after you’ve set the initial limits to make sure that rules are being followed. You may also want to occasionally re-evaluate rules that have been set as your child matures and becomes more independent.
References: “When Should You Come Between A Teenager And Her Phone” (Marshall, n.d.)