Wow! Two weeks ago we were going about life as usual, kids were in school and being taught by the teachers that we "love and admire" (even more now), we were free to go to the park, go shopping, and play in a soccer game. But today; now that's a different story.
,Today, we are struggling to find things for our kids to do. How in the world can we get the school work done, how do we keep siblings from fighting all day, and most importantly, how do we keep them out of the refrigerator? But in all the chaos, there's something else changing, the amount of time your child or teenager is online. Social media, gaming, making videos for TikTok, or exploring on YouTube, here on out referred to "all the things" can consume your child's day.
As a parent, it's so easy to let our children participate in all the things that keep them quiet and occupied while we do life. You know, like cook dinner, do laundry, pay bills and the other mundane non-exciting life necessities.
I get to work with, and build relationships with a lot of kids and here's what I know: You, as a parent, may not know what's happening in your child's online world and they don't want you to know. When I asked a group of 60 fifth and sixth graders how many of them had been exposed to something online that they knew was wrong, every one of them raised their hand. All 60 of them. So how can you protect them? Well, you can't change what you don't know.
ARE THEY SHARING TOO MUCH? Make sure your child isn't sharing too much personal information. Are they giving out their location? Are they talking about pet names or their favorite sports? These things give predators what they need to start up conversations and begin to develop a relationship.
IS THEIR CONTENT PRIVATE? Private is only private if you don't accept people you don't know. Make sure your kids know that accepting your friend's friend means you're not private anymore. Let them know that if a person/friend is important to them, they should be important to the parents as well.
WARN YOUR CHILD ABOUT CHATTING. Let your child know how dangerous it is to chat with someone they don't know. Explain that sometimes the person is not who they claim to be and they can be very deceptive.
WAIT UNTIL 8TH is a national campaign to wait until 8th grade for a phone, and 16 for data. It sounds a tough, but there are so many reasons that this makes sense.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. There are so many resources available to you about the dangers of social media. Find out what your child is in to and research it.
What can you do as a parent to better control what your child or teenager is doing online? First, don't be afraid to parent. There are fake Instagram accounts, gaming buddies, and Youtube channels that your child doesn't want you to know about. Let them know you care about what they do online, and then set every phone in the house with the same passcode. Yes, even mom and dad. Everyone becomes accountable because at any given moment you can ask for your child's phone to check it. But, they can also ask for yours. All phones and devices that access data can go on a charger in the parent's room at bedtime.
Hey, I know parenting is hard. Especially now when everything is not what we're used to and we are having to change our schedules and our daily structure. Proverbs 29:17 offers encouragement and hope, "Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart."
Setting some online guidelines and house rules may be hard, but not impossible. I'll be here cheering you on!
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HI! I'm Trish, Director of Children and Preteen Ministries at Live Oak Church in Watson, LA