Molding and shaping our kids while we can is every parent’s dream. When kids are young – and sweet! – they are far more inclined to take on board our advice and lovingly imposed rules. Oh, how I miss those days!! And in a nutshell – that’s what a good set of parental controls can do for you and your kids. In my opinion, parental controls can absolutely help you create good habits but it’s essential that they are accompanied by an invested parent who’s keen to help their kids navigate the online world.
What Can Parental Controls Do?
With Aussie kids spending at least 5 hours online a day, it’s no secret that they can be exposed to a broad range of people, websites and themes – some potentially quite disturbing. And with most kids sporting an internet-connected phone plus a laptop, there’s no limit to what they can access – and usually when you aren’t around.
I like to think of parental controls as another way of helping establish healthy habits and good decision-making strategies with your kids. For example, if you have told your kids there is no screen time before bed, then you are able to use Parental Controls to make that a reality. And if you have agreed that they are able to use only certain apps or social media platforms then Parental Controls can also make this happen by blocking access if they deviate. I believe that over time, these routines, and boundaries simply become part of your child’s day-to-day life and become good habits.
McAfee’s Parental Controls, called Safe Family, can also let you view your kids’ activity online and let you know where your kids are at all times. How good??
Doesn’t It Take Just 21 Days To Form A Habit?
While it’s commonly believed that it takes just 21 days to form a habit, courtesy of Dr Maxwell Maltz in the 1960’s, more up-to-date research shows that it could take considerably longer. In fact, research conducted in 2010 by Health Psychology Researcher Philippa Lally at The University College in London shows that it takes around 2 months or 66 days to be precise to make a new habit stick!
And while I love the idea that we could help our kids adopt new positive habits in just 2 months, I think we need to keep it real. Fear of missing out (FOMO) coupled with the lure of their shiny devices might mean that it takes a little more than 66 days to make a change, particularly if you are trying to modify their current usage as opposed to starting from scratch.
Nothing Replaces The Role Of Being A Proactive Digital Parenting
There is no-one that better understands just how time poor parents can be. Having spent the last 20 plus years rearing 4 boys and working, I feel like I’ve earnt the time poor t-shirt! So, understandably, many parents feel like they just don’t have the ‘band with’ to take on much more so digital parenting is often put in the too hard basket. And I totally get it!
But using parental controls without some knowledge of your kids’ digital world, is a little like filling your car with petrol but not worrying about the oil. It will eventually be a problem!
My Top 3 Digital Parenting Non-Negotiables
So, I’m going to break it down for you. Digital parenting doesn’t have to be overwhelming, particularly if you break it down. So, in a quest to keep it simple, here are 4 things you can do to up your digital parenting game:
1. As Soon as Your Kids Start Using Devices, Start Talking Cybersafety
The day your child picks up a device is the day you start talking about cybersafety. If this is when they are 18 months of age, then that’s when you start. Always ensure the messages are age-appropriate and keep them simple. You could start with:
- “Remember, daddy/mummy chooses the game”
- “Let’s keep your name private online.” To help with this, why not create an online nickname for them?
- “Make sure you’re sitting near (mum/dad/nana) when you are using the iPad.”
And when your kids get older, weave in more age-appropriate messages, such as:
- “Online friends aren’t real friends”
- “If you wouldn’t do it in person then don’t do it online”
- “Think before you post”
Knitting cybersafety messages into your family dialogue needs to also become automatic. Talk about it just like you would sun safety or road safety. And why not share stories around the dinner table about your own online experiences or even relevant news stories to engage them in a dialogue.
2. Create a Family Digital Contract
I love the idea of a clear contract between parents and kids that details your expectations about their online behaviour and technology use. It’s a great way of developing a set of guidelines that will help them navigate the risks associated with being online. Now, this agreement should definitely be a family exercise so ensure your kids are invested in the process too. If you want a starting point, check out this one from The Modern Parent here.
3. Commit to Understanding Your Child’s Digital World
Taking some time to understand how your child spends their time online is the best way of truly understanding the risks and challenges they face. So, join ALL the social media platforms your kids are on, play their games and download their messaging apps. You will develop a better understanding of how to manage privacy settings and the language/online culture that is a big part of your child’s life. And the best part – if they know you understand their world, I have no doubt that you will develop a little ‘tech cred’ which mean that they will be more likely to come to you with any issues or problems that may face online. Awesome!
Get Technology Working for You
There is some amazing technology available that makes this digital parenting thing a heck of a lot easier and that includes Parental Controls. McAfee’s Safe Family is a comprehensive parental controls solution that lets you monitor and block apps and websites, manage screen time, see where your kid’s devices are at all times, and more, giving you peace of mind in an ever-mobile world. The perfect partner to an invested parent!
Parental Controls can be an awesome way of helping your kids establish positive habits around their tech use, but they are even more impactful when combined with an invested parent who has got a good handle on the online world. So, by all means, invest in Parental Control software but also commit to ramping up your digital parenting game – it’s the best way to help set up your kids for a safe and positive experience online. And isn’t that every digital parent’s dream!