The world can be a scary place for parents, made a whole lot scarier by its ability to get inside the home via the television and internet. You can’t be everywhere at once, so you can’t spend all of your time watching over the shoulders of your little one to make sure they’re not being exposed to anything that could be damaging. So how else can we keep our children safe when using the television and internet, but also make sure they’re using them in a way that is beneficial to their development and education?
The easiest way to ensure they’re not watching too much television is to allow them restricted viewing hours. That might be just half an hour of the Teletubbies before dinner, or it might be more, but if you give a specific amount of time that they have to stick to, it can become part of the routine. It’s important that you try to lead by example with this one – if they’re being told not to watch too much television, it’s easier to enforce if you don’t either. If you usually watch the television during family dinner, this could be a good time to stop. Use the time for catching up and social activities. Television time should be a treat, not a time filler.
Technology has come a long way in recent years, and it’s not possible to completely limit what your child has access to on the internet, without having to watch over their shoulder. Virgin Media, in particular, have a great attitude towards child safety on the internet, allowing you to password certain types of websites, and even limit screen time. The system isn’t just for home internet; you can even install it onto handheld devices, meaning that older children can have mobile phones, without you worrying about what they’ll access. If you think this is something which your family would benefit by, click here for the Virgin Media contact details.
Before you let your child watch a new television show, make sure you spend some time watching for its general content, to make sure it is age appropriate, and to check that it is instilling the values on your child that you find important. Speak to other mums about what they’re happy with their children watching, and what they would recommend you explore.
4. Internet safety
Sit your child down and speak to them about the importance of internet safety. Make sure you emphasise what information they should and shouldn’t share, and the reasons they shouldn’t speak to strangers. Don’t treat it as scare-mongering; you’re just trying to get them to understand better the risks involved with using the internet. These are things that we had to learn about as the internet grew bigger and more extensive, so it’s only sensible that we pass our findings along to the next generation. Older children especially need to understand the importance of responsible internet use, and behaving respectfully to others, even anonymously. Make sure they realise that you can see what they’re doing on the computer, but also the importance of coming to talk to you about anything that makes them uncomfortable, or that they find peculiar.
Television shows don’t have to just be mindless cartoons – try to make sure that everything they watch has some educational purpose that is age appropriate. For younger children, good programs teach them social or emotional skills and display excellent role models. For older children, choose a show in which the educational aspect is integrated fully into the content of the show, but plays heavy emphasis on the importance of education – Horrible Histories is a brilliant example of this. If you catch a few minutes of the show, they’re watching, follow it up with them afterwards. Ask questions about what they learned, and what they enjoyed. This helps cement the content in their memory, and also reinforces the educational aspect of television watching.
Watching television or playing on the internet is not great for winding down, so the last hour before bed should usually be electronic free. Encourage book reading, not television watching. If your child has access to the internet from their bedroom, use a parental lock feature that most major internet service providers offer for free as part of their packages to make sure they’re unable to access the internet after lights-out time. Their quality of sleep will really benefit, and you’ll have peace of mind that they’re not accessing anything they shouldn’t.
The main thing is to keep a dialogue up with your children about safe internet practices, but also discuss good television shows for their development – you don’t want them to despise watching the TV, you just want to make sure it’s all in their best interests.