There probably isn’t a parent among us who hasn’t wondered how to rein in some aspect of technology in their child’s life. But for most of us, there’s also a sense of appreciation for the ways technology has benefited our daily lives. Let’s be honest: who doesn’t find it practical and handy for finding a quick answer, navigating to a destination, comparison shopping, scheduling events, having a camera handy at a moment’s notice, etc.? The internet and mobile communication are here to stay, so it’s essential for parents to set guidelines that will increase digital health while still promoting the substantial benefits technology offers for research, education, and a growing array of careers.
What Is Digital Wellness?
Let’s define digital wellness as working and communicating safely in our interconnected world. That includes exercising discernment in accessing and evaluating online content and avoiding what is unhealthy, maintaining online privacy, and setting limits for screen time by taking regular and sustained technology breaks.
A Generous Helping of Discernment Needed!
We encourage parents to have a talk with their kids – not just once, but periodically – about the very real dangers of misinformation and violent, obscene, and pornographic content on the web. Obviously, this needs to be done on an age-appropriate basis, establishing your family’s standard for what’s appropriate and what’s not. Most kids will acknowledge that it’s impossible to “un-see” something on the internet. Two helps for parental oversight in this area are Net Nanny (web-filtering software) and Forcefield (monitoring and control software).
A worthwhile basis for the standards discussion might be Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Keeping Safe: Maintain Online Privacy
Make it a family rule: don’t give out personal information online — passwords, addresses, phone numbers. Ask your child to tell you at once if they receive messages that feel harassing, intimidating, or inappropriate. It’s important for kids of all ages to realize that “stranger danger” also exists in cyberspace!
Know When to Turn It Off
This is hard for parents, too. Overuse of technology can reduce our attention span for the sustained activities we once took for granted — like reading a book! We fight the impulse to see what’s happening online, check social media, and respond immediately to emails. For our kids, it’s often FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) on social events, Instagram posts, etc. And it’s not just the internet that’s distracting. What about streaming video and video games?
We can be intentional in reversing these habits. Start by establishing places and times in your home that are free of tech devices. Family meals would be a natural starting point. Other suggestions include keeping devices in one place in your home during normal sleep hours, establishing times to read together as a family, and leaving devices behind during family activities. Exchange Facetime for face to face time! Kids and parents need to remind one another that digital devices are not a substitute for authentic relationships.
Finding a Healthy Tech Perspective
Northside Christian Academy offers Charlotte, NC students a learning environment where teachers and staff are on the same page with parents in safeguarding students’ hearts and minds. The school’s biblical worldview foundation establishes a healthy understanding and use of technology throughout the curriculum. STEAM initiatives (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) harness the innovation and imagination of NCA students and help prepare them for challenging 21st century jobs.
Discover more about Northside Christian Academy.