In managing children’s online habits, know the media and the child
The quickly evolving nature of technology can put a strain on parents’ ability to keep up, but they can still effectively manage their children’s digital consumption, a member of the Media Literacy Council says.
Back in the year 2000, I began my journey engaging families, parents and youth on cyber-wellness issues.
Back then, in order to cut down their children’s video gaming, I had heard parents confidently say to their children, “Don’t play video games so often, you cannot earn money, there is no future”.
Some parents were restricting their children from socialising with others via the Internet, afraid that their children would meet up with “online strangers”.
When children relied heavily on the Internet for information, they were told by their parents, “Don’t trust the things you read online”.
Understandably, parents had apprehensions about their children using the Internet, and such methods or instructions may have been the right solutions back then.
However, the digital world has evolved, and so must the types of parental mediation — the ways parents manage their children’s digital habits.
Children are smarter and more tech-savvy these days.
They know that you can earn money playing video games and, in some cases, tons of money. The prize money for gaming competitions can go up to millions of dollars, and this is not inclusive of the product endorsement deals that are associated with such fame.
They also know that if you are not that good a gamer, fret not, you can be a “YouTuber”.
Children are interacting with the multitudes, those they know and those they don’t know IRL (in real life) via various messaging or social media platforms.
Moreover, parents themselves use such platforms to communicate with their children.
Children know of people who fell in love online and eventually got married, and the young depend on the Internet for information more than ever, a reliance encouraged by their schools.
While parents have also grown in their tech-savviness and understanding of how the Internet works, they are arguably a few steps behind the youngsters.
The quickly evolving nature of technology also puts a strain on parents’ ability to keep up. Yet, studies have shown that parents can still effectively manage their children’s digital consumption.
Here are two important but often lacking types of knowledge among parents.
Firstly, know the media.
Have an idea of the kinds of digital activities available and how they work. Broad understanding is sufficient.
For example, if parents are aware that it takes two hours to complete a certain level in a video game, they may want to allow the child to play for two hours on a weekend instead of an hour every day.
Secondly, know the child.
Every child is different. Just because your nephew cannot control himself when using the smartphone, it does not mean that your child will also struggle. Instead of comparing them, find out what works for your child.
In understanding these two things, parents are best equipped to manage their children’s media consumption in this digitally connected world.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dr Jiow Hee Jhee is a member of the Media Literacy Council.