This “new normal” we are all finding ourselves faced with as a result of Covid-19 means we need to readdress some of our approaches, mindset, guidelines and boundaries when it comes to our digital parenting. Spending so much time at home, inevitably means the screens and technology are going to play a big part in all our lives. So how can we best manage this time in a way that maintains focus on our health and wellbeing, helps us avoid the usual pitfalls of a digital world, and even manages to gain some positive benefits and outcomes? Here’s my guide to surviving these unusual and uncertain times we all find ourselves in.
Managing the mindset
Get fluid: It’s important we understand that whilst we can continue with many of our underlying values around how we approach technology and the digital world, we are going to need to be a lot more fluid and adaptive with our approach. Whilst some may want to stick to rigid rules and time limits, you are probably going to keep your sanity and flow of the household better if you learn to go with the flow a little more. That doesn’t mean they have free reign on whatever and whenever they want the tech, we just might need to adapt to something that is more conducive to these times.
Cut yourself some slack: Many parents will be ‘trying’ to work from home. To manage online meetings, to address emails, to write, to strategise, to plan, to respond to others, to make calls and think clearly. All this can be very challenging when you have a house full of kids, or even just one child vying for you attention. If you need to throw on an extra episode of Bluey, or allow an extra hour of gaming in order to get that done, then no need to beat yourself up with all that parent guilt. These are different times and once things go back to ‘normal’, our kids will once again adapt to the boundaries you put in place.
Managing the screentime
Remember all the other things: Of course the tech can be one of the easier ways to maintain our kids attention or to keep them occupied when we need to get things done. So maybe keep it for those times. When we are not so pressed to get things done, or feeling a little more energised and available, then we can remember all the other ways kids can spend their time. By getting out the lego, the books, the boardgames, the art supplies and making them readily available and visible, we can steer them to a variety of things that will keep them occupied.
Don’t make tech the bad thing…… it’s just one of the things: I always urge parents not to make tech the bad guy when it comes to digital parenting as it sets up an “us versus them” scenario and becomes the even more alluring ‘forbidden fruit’. Instead, we want to maintain that the technology is just one of the many ways we learn, we are entertained and we socialise. If we offer up a range of things to do, then we can build that culture of “balanced play” to ensure we are having our needs met from a range of different experiences.
Play with them when you can: Getting our kids to adhere to balance in their play is a lot easier if we get involved. So for those times when we are free to give them our attention, then play the game with them on their device. Get them to teach you how to play (they love to think they have skills you don’t possess, but they also love it when you get competitive with them too!) Well my kids do anyway! Read the interactive book with them or help them seek out positive and productive things to do online. It is easier to help them transition to other activities if we have been involved, rather than yelling at them from the kitchen! If you are worried about them spending too long on a device, spend time at the end of the activity sitting with them, talking to them. Even putting an arm around them or hand on their shoulder can help them transition out of ‘the zone’ and be more open to putting it away and doing something else.
Get outside and active whilst you can: At this stage many of us are still able to go outside for fresh air, walks, runs and bike rides with family members. So be sure these are a priority too, as there is nothing better for our wellbeing than activity and fresh air. There are also plenty of ways we can stay active indoors too and plenty of online fitness, yoga, pilates classes or even a game of Wii sports.
Set them up safely
There is likely going to be plenty of times when your kids may well be online when you are not able to be there watching their every move. So do what you can to make sure they are playing safely and on appropriate games and sites.
- Go the settings tab of the games or sites they are on and play around to see all the different options and ways you can make it is as safe and as positive an experience as you can. Turn tabs to private, ascertain who can contact them, what language and content is filtered, whether private chats are available etc
- This PDF I have created outlines some of the settings we have control over and how we can filter and manage devices and apps. Digital Parental Controls
- Have discussions about who they are talking to online. They are going to want to stay in contact with heir mates and use online chats and games to do this, so be sure they are only talking to those people they know and remind them to get your help if they are unsure about verifying who someone is.
- Check out reviews on commonsesnsemedia.org or watch a youtube video of a game yourself to determine if it is appropriate for your child.
- Make sure your child knows how to block or report people
Check your own screentime
Get critical with what you consume: whilst we want to be aware of the content our kids are consuming and be alert to fake news, click bait headlines and anything that doesn’t serve us well…we also need to check our feeds and recognise the content that is not helpful or relevant to us. We can go to government websites and reputable media outlets when we need specific advice and information, but we must be careful not to get bogged down in reading everything that is out there. Our brains certainly want answers to this situation but unfortunately it is a situation that has very little in the way of conclusive answers right now. So rather than keep refreshing your news feed and keep on checking your socials for the answers…try taking a few deep breaths, and realise that the answers will come with time. Until then, let’s not fill our minds with every stat, every persons opinion, every warning and judgement that is out there. Remember that the online world can make people believe they are an expert purely because of something they read or heard or a meme that popped up on their feed. This is very often not the case.
Positive and productive online pursuits
There are many ways we can use the technology for good and in productive and positive ways.
- Stay connected with friends and family. The technology will certainly play a greater role in this. We may want to set up zoom chats, or Microsoft teams as a way to connect with others for dedicated socialising aside from our normal social media and messenger apps.
- Check out this list of Mindful Scrolling: 20 better things to do on your device
- Use the technology to compliment or inspire an activity. Get a recipe online, look up ‘how to draw’ tutorials, do an online fitness class, search a photo a day list and get creative in the home.
- Visit somewhere virtually. There are some great sites that allow virtual visiting of museums, galleries and all manner of places. And Nasa have opened up their amazing photo library for free during this time.
- There are many many ways we can take advantage of whats on offer online and I will continue to share many of these resources in the newsletter and on the Facebook page so be sure to sign up and follow me on facebook.com/themodernparent
Remember there will be days and hours and moments of revelling in this time. We will flourish in the connection, the freedom, the downtime, the time to do the jobs, read the book, watch the movie and learn the new skill. There will also be times of frustration, fear, boredom, bickering, crying, mood swinging, pressure to always feel like we are doing something productive when we just don’t feel like it. These are new and challenging times for all of us, our kids included. So let’s all cut ourselves some slack. Try looking at it one day at a time. Don’t beat ourselves up if the day doesn’t go to plan. Don’t constantly compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing and achieving. Do what works for you……. and most of all…stay well.