5 Rules for Kids Using Digital Technology

Dr John Coleman and Suzie Hayman, authors of Parents and Digital Technology, set out the best way of governing how your kids use digital technology.

1) Hold the line and set boundaries

Parenting can be a very hard job, Suzie admits, but it is the responsibility of the adult to think about the issues, set rules in place and hold that line. It’s important to recognise that boundaries on time or certain activities have to be set, and then held, even though it may be tough. “I know you’re saying you hate me you hate me because I’m saying it’s ten o’clock and it’s time to switch everything off,” Suzie observes, “ but I’m the parent, and that’s how we’re going to manage it.”

2) Be aware of the dangers

Thinking of the online or digital world as the information superhighway is an apt analogy, she says: “this is something you jump in - it could be wonderful and you’re running around, enjoying yourself, discovering fantastic things, going fantastic places and along comes a juggernaut and runs you over.” Parents have to recognise that amongst all this wonderfulness there are dangers. The then need to help make kids aware of this and where these dangers lie.

3) Don’t use the term screen time

Screen time is actually a false concept when thinking about how children use digital technology, says Dr John Coleman. A better way of looking at it is what kids are actually using that time for: “Within screen time are a whole range of things – maybe doing your homework, maybe being creative, maybe doing a project at school –screen time itself is not a good measure.”

4) Be aware of what your kids are doing

Setting effective rules starts with recognising what children are actually doing. Just as screen time can be broken down into a range of different activities, some educational, some social or for entertainment, so the rules and boundaries should be flexible to incorporate this range of activities – and that can only be done by paying attention to how children are using their exposure to digital technology: “it involves making sure that you have some sense of what is going on – what the young person is doing,” John states.

5) Communicate and have fun!

“It all comes down to communication,” says Suzie. "It’s the parents’ job to help kids recognise where the dangers lie, to put rules in place, but also what sort of rules should be put in place. But once they’re there, children can enjoy their experience – “I think sometimes that’s what people struggle to recognise. Put those rules in place, insist of them being held, and then have fun.”

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  • Parents and Digital Technology

    How to Raise the Connected Generation

    By Suzie Hayman, John Coleman

    Children today are digital natives, growing up in an age where social media and online communication is the norm. This book is an indispensable guide for parents who may feel they are struggling to keep up, addressing the issues that young people and their families face in the world of modern…

    Paperback – 2016-04-05

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About the Authors

Suzie Hayman is a Relate-trained counsellor, an accredited parenting educator, an agony aunt and the author of 30 books on parenting.

John Coleman is a psychologist whose primary interest is adolescence. His pioneering work with parents and families has been widely recognised, and in 2001 he was awarded an OBE for his services to young people.