From Passive Observers to Media Diets: How to Raise Responsible Netizens

1Nowadays, most kids have their own tablets, smartphones, and laptops which they use either for entertainment purposes or studying. Nielsen’s 2012 Social Media Report revealed that 30% of consumers—both children and adults—spend more time on social media networks via their mobile devices. Researchers also found out that in the United States alone, people spent around 121 billion minutes in 2012, compared to 88 billion the previous year. With all the smart devices, mobile applications, and broadband connectivity at their disposal, how can we raise them to become responsible citizens of the 21st century?

Be a Passive Observer and Engager

According to a news released by the Brigham Young University: it shows that teenagers, who interact with their parents via social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, have higher rates of “pro-social” behavior. This means that they’ll be more generous, helpful, and kind to others. As parents, we shouldn’t be afraid to tweet our kids or even befriend them on Facebook. Sharon Oddy, Verizon Wireless’ Corporate Communication Associate Director, wrote in her article that “parents, of course, need to be conscious that even though they have real-time access, they should set boundaries that allow their children to grow and develop into adults.” Although, parents are encouraged to be passive observers and engagers, they should avoid posting things that could embarrass their children. Always keep your lines of communication open and observe mutual online respect.

Set Them on a Media Diet

Before, our parents would usually let us ride our bikes with our friends with stern reminders like “Be back before dinner” and “Don’t ride too fast.” Now, we have to content with the Internet and mobile applications, which we can’t monitor on a 24/7 basis. Also, it’s a bit challenging to set boundaries, since they always have their devices with them. The America Academy Pediatrics has a couple of recommendations on setting “screen-time” boundaries at home which are:

Establish  “screen-free zones” – make sure that there are no televisions, computers,  and even portable devices inside a child’s bedroom.   Unplug before going to bed – as much as possible, find time to do creative things, without involving electronic devices. Read together, play traditional board games, or just talk about your day before going to bed. No Smart Devices and Television for Toddlers – since a child’s brain is still  developing between 0 to 2 years of age, any form of electronic entertainment media should be avoided. They can learn more and be more      sociable by interacting with other kids.

Children should be exploring, engaging, and using their imaginations during their free time. It’s okay to use technology once in a while—about an hour or two a day—but too much of it can lead to problems like attention-span problems, eating and sleeping disorders. A good media diet can do wonders for your kids.

Remind Them about the Dangers Online

“Never talk to strangers, ever.” This is line has been practically drilled into our heads by our parents. They would usually accompany this with child abduction statistics, as a grim reminder that we should always take precaution. Well, this reminder still stands as of today and its getting more dangerous. We’ve heard the sad story of Rebecca Ann Sedwick; the poor 12-year old girl who was driven by cyber bullies to take her own life. She’s only one of the hundreds of kids being stalked, followed, and verbally-abused online. Let’s not forget the Pedo Bears or also know as online predators; they usually find their prey through chat rooms, blogs, and their favorite—social media sites. To protect and minimize your children’s exposure to these dangers, here are some tips:

Talk to  your kids about the potential dangers lurking on the Internet.  Filter  the content and websites they’re visiting. Use you’re a web filtering  application or software to control their use of the Internet.  For children below the age of 13, it’s not recommended for them to sign up to any social media website. Always follow the required age limit on these sites.  If they receive private messages on their social media accounts or emails from  strangers, tell them to ignore it. They can also opt to have an adult read it, just in case.  It’s also important to remind them not to reveal any personal information about themselves, their family, or friends. These types of information can be used against them by online predators or cyber bullies.  The most important thing is: be there for your child. If they do encounter these threats, be there to listen, comfort, and take action if necessary.

Raising kids is a tough job, but raising tech-savvy kids can prove to be tougher. As parents, we should learn to balance everything; cope with their tech lifestyle, talk to them as often as possible, and to always be their guide.

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