If we shelter our children with austere helicopter parenting techniques and shield them from the world, they’ll be safe and protected from the Internet. As parents and adults, we’re dependent on our smartphones, laptops and tablets. Whether we rely on our smartphone to communicate or feel attached to our tablet for entertainment, our children recognize the strong relationship that we have with our digital devices. In their eyes, we’re their example role models. So, if our devices are essential for basic functioning, how can we expect our children not to follow in those same footsteps?
The Internet is a scary place for parents who want to protect children from growing up too quickly. It has practically become the proverbial neighborhood bad kid who teaches your kid about sex and tells him there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. Log onto Facebook and your 6 year old sees a link to inappropriate funny pictures of drunk people. Type in Google.com and your little one can view an explicit YouTube video and learn everything they need to know about anatomy and reproduction within three minutes. Scared of the Internet? Rather than seeing it as the enemy, befriend it. Worried about sexual content on the Internet? Rather than shielding your child from the topic of sex, discuss it.
The Forbidden is Enticing
An iPhone or iPad in the hands of our children are now just as common as a book or stuffed toy. Digital devices are great educational and entertainment tools, therefore, try to fight the urge to forbid the Internet and describe it as evil. The dichotomy will confuse your child and compel them to rebel or explore the Internet in secrecy. Provide online freedom. Proactively address the topic of sex, inappropriate content that pressures children to engage in sexual behavior, and even online dangers, such as sexual predators. Approaching the subject, rather than reacting to it, builds trust between you and your child.
Children are losing their innocence at a younger age, and they recognize it, too. Young girls are encouraged to share pictures of themselves on Facebook or Instagram. If she uploads a sexy pic, she’s validated with compliments. As for videos with adult content, kids are curious, even though they understand that “they are in a strange, uncharted place,” creating “a disservice,” according to NYMag.com’s feature “They Know What Boys Want.” Dissolve Internet fears and anxiety for both you and your child by communicating openly. “Knowledge is power,” says O magazine’s editor-at-large, Gayle King. Whether kids are aware or not, they want the facts and even restrictions established boundaries. Create a trusting environment and relationship by telling your child that a mature question about sex will be followed-up with a mature, honest response. Explain to your child that he or she is smart and knows when they’re too young for sexual material or mature behavior. You trust that they’ll make good decisions and talk to you when something uncertain arises that creates negative feelings. Keep in mind, security and privacy controls are recommended for young children; however, in addition to restrictions, provide age-appropriate privileges to eliminate rebellion and forbidden curiosity.
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Category: Guest Editorial