parenting q&a

This week, Natalie Turner, former paediatric nurse, life coach and author of, looks at how to safely oversee your child’s activity online and with modern gadgets…

Q.) What is your opinion on mobile phones or tablets for children? My husband and I are at logger heads. I don’t agree, yet he gives them to the children constantly.

A.) My belief on most things is ‘everything in moderation’. I’m not of the belief that children shouldn’t be using tablets. In fact, you can find some great educational apps. However, it needs to be balanced with outside activity, sports or anything that gets your child moving. In a lot of countries childhood obesity is on the rise and it’s partly down to eating habits and partly down to lack of exercise.

Talk with your husband and decide on a rule detailing how much time your children can spend each day on the tablet. Be sure to screen what games and apps they are playing and using. You may feel happier to know they are learning, whilst having fun too. Also ensure to arrange time for activities that include exercise, for example an evening walk or playing in a park.

As for mobile phones, it would depend on the age and the necessity. Mobiles are definitely helpful in enabling you to reach your children. So it can bring peace of mind. On the other hand, if they are constantly on the phone, texting, calling or playing then that too can create unhealthy habits. You could maybe implement a ‘no phones in the house’ rule. Especially during meal times and before bed. This rule is for mummies and daddies, too. Be aware of the example you are setting. Are you constantly on your phone? If so, it would be wrong to then ask your children to act differently.

Q.) My daughter doesn’t seem to talk with anyone. She’s constantly texting people and online. Put her in a social situation and she doesn’t say a word. What can I do to help?

A.) I almost feel a little sorry for the younger generation. When social media apps were introduced we were older, we already had a sense (well most of us) of what was appropriate to share and what was not. Yet, young girls and boys  of this generation have been thrust into a new way to communicate with little rules or regulations. Many children will write things they wouldn’t say, which can get them in trouble. So it’s up to us, the parents, to be open and to talk about the ways they can use social media. It’s also important for us to highlight inappropriate use and to stress the potential problems that might occur when a video goes viral.

As for the communication side one of the things, I recommend  finding a good drama club. With a good teacher it can absolutely help boost your daughter’s confidence and bring her out of her shell.

Again it also calls for phone-, computer-, tablet-free time – dinner around the table with no distractions, only conversation. Invite friends and family for dinner and follow the rule.

Q.) How can I keep my children safe online?

A.) This is definitely new territory as our parents never needed to worry about online grooming, trolls and cyber bullying. I hadn’t even heard of a troll until last year. I was of the opinion they hid under bridges waiting for goats. So if you’re still not internet savvy, a ‘troll’ is a person that goes on lots of social media platforms and makes nasty comments, argues for the sake of arguing and causes as much trouble and pain as possible. If your child detects a troll, delete them and report them to the social media site they’re using.

Another worrying trend is internet grooming. Where older men and/or women pretend to be younger boys or girls and ask children to take inappropriate photos of themselves. Be open and honest with your children and let them know that this is not normal or appropriate behaviour, and they should report to you if anyone asks them to do something like this. Always let them know they’ll never be in trouble, you’ll be proud of them for confiding in you.

If your son or daughter is ever the subject of cyber bullying, immediately delete the bullies and set up a new account. It can be a very upsetting time for your child so be available to support them, it may take a meeting with teachers and parents too. Some children aren’t aware of the affects cyber bullying has. So let your children know, so they don’t accidentally become the bully either.

Here is a link to a great age-specific internet safety website.  
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