In a recent podcast (no 4) I asked: What is the effect of parents representing themselves to their children instead of trying to fix or change their children? A parent’s connection is especially relevant when helping children navigate their screens.
Parents can have regular, curious conversations with their children about what is safe and healthy online and what is dangerous and unhealthy. These conversations are reserved for calm moments as a parent is involved in their pre-teen’s screen use. In the same way that parents want to know the kids their children hang out with, they want to see and know what their child is engaged in online. Not suspiciously monitoring but with genuine interest.
They share what is important to them as parents to allow their child time to have fun online. It is also their job to ensure they are safe online by seeing what their child is watching and discussing what is Ok and what is not. The conversations are person-to-person – not group. They build connections rather than reactions and defensiveness.
A parent might come alongside their pre-teen and say: “One of my important jobs as your parent is to help you know how to stay safe and avoid you being caught in nasty people trying to pretend to be your friend online. Do you think that has ever happened to you? How would you tell? I didn’t have an iPad when I was growing up, so I’m doing my best to learn about screen safety. That’s why I have changed to only have screen time in the family room.” Personal connection with a pre-teen is more impactful than any protective screen app (while they can be helpful as additional support). Parenting is, after all, ultimately relational, not a policy and procedure approach.
And for the many parents where the busyness of life has meant they have outsourced their time to screens – so understandable for survival – remember that changing habits for both parent and child is slow. Reacting too strongly to the discovery of unpalatable online engagement will escalate the problem. However, when a parent can say: “I am so sorry that I have neglected to be more involved and supportive of you as you learn to deal with all the stuff thrown at kids online. I am going to start spending more time with you doing some fun things online and help you recognise when stuff is yucky and dangerous.”
Can you hear the tone of a parent being calmly present with their child – conveying how much they love their child and are committed to being the best parent possible? Rather than anxiously focussed on correcting and fixing the child, a parent shows up as a thoughtfully. They are constantly learning and ready to apologise when they get things wrong.
Dr Jenny Brown
Listen to more – in our new podcast series: PARENTING THROUGH STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT – follow on your podcast app.
Restoring your confidence as a parent by making yourself the project and not trying to change your child
Discover how relationships are central to growing in responsibility and maturity.Buy the book
Joe was beginning to see how his best efforts to help his daughter and family to have happy times together were actually contributing to a lowering of Chloe’s resilience. This is the next instalment in the story of one parent, Joe, as he worked to figure out how he could be a resource to his…
Parenting for flourishing children – new free parent course introducing the Parent Hope Project ideas.
How can Grandparents best support their children and grandchildren? Dr Jenny Brown shares some family systems principles for how grandparents can be a resource to their children and grandchildren.