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The Motherload: Raising kids in the digital age

It’s 6 am on a Saturday morning and I’m jarred awake by my children fighting over a Nintendo controller on the other side of the house. Can you relate? At all hours of the day and night, children want to be connected to the digital world. 

I always said my kids wouldn’t have a cellphone until they were driving, but at ages 6 and 8, they already have smart watches that enable them to reach me with the push of a button. I said no TVs in the bedroom, but on the weekends, they watch Disney movies on an iPad from the comfort of the pillow fort in their room. 

The truth is, technology is everywhere, and the older children get the more they want to consume it. The key is to teach them to do so in a safe, respectful and appropriate manner. 

Here are some things to consider:

  • Set clear rules and boundaries around screen time: Establish a schedule for when and how long your child can use devices and stick to it. Consider using parental controls and monitoring software to help enforce these rules. 

  • Model healthy tech habits: Children learn by example, so it's important to model good tech habits yourself. Try to limit your own screen time when your children are around and avoid using devices during mealtimes and other family activities. 
  • Talk to your kids about online safety: Make sure your children understand the risks associated with sharing personal information online and teach them how to protect themselves. This includes using strong passwords, avoiding suspicious links and messages, and only communicating with people they know in real life. 
  • Encourage offline activities: While technology can be a great tool for learning and entertainment, it's important to balance screen time with other activities like exercise, creative play and socializing with friends. 
  • Stay informed: Keep up to date on the latest trends and risks in the digital world and talk to other parents and experts for advice and support. Be open to learning from your children as well – they may have insights and perspectives that can help you navigate the digital landscape. 

Most importantly, keep an open dialogue with your child about their digital use. Encourage them to come to you with any concerns or questions they may have about their online activity. Be supportive and non-judgmental, and work together to establish healthy digital habits. 

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Laren MacMillan is author of The Motherload, a parenting column that aims to empower mothers, build a community of support and promote healthy and happy families. A former newspaper editor turned heal...

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