In a perfect world, parents would never need to worry about children and their safety, but this is often not an ideal world especially now that almost everything including schools shifted online. This appeared like the right solution to keep children safe from the virus, but there was something that parents had not considered.
I spoke to a couple of parents and from our discussion, they are incredibly concerned about their children’s safety, albeit they’re home learning from behind their computer or iPads.
Many say parenting is harder today than it had been 10 years ago, with most of them citing technologies like social media or smartphones as a reason.
Parenting has never been easy but the widespread adoption of smartphones and therefore the rise of social media has introduced a replacement wrinkle to the challenges of parenthood.
Ms. Irene Dunka, an educator by profession and also a mother of 4 children says her daughter is usually distracted and prefers to remain alone in her room “studying online” and this worries her. “She is just too addicted, doesn’t go outside to play with friends, and is getting overweight due to lack of exercise” Irene adds.
Sharon, a mother of two teenagers also thinks that social media is harmful to kids as it’s difficult to combat or monitor the messages that they’re getting all the time from the world. “Being a teenager is harder than it had been 5 years ago, and this has made parenting through all of the obstacles challenging,” Sharon says.
By contrast, a comparatively small share of parents that I spoke to agree that parenting today is simpler than 10 years ago. When asked to explain why they thought parenting is simpler now than within the past for many parents, they commonly cited reasons that revolve around advancement and access to technology.
Mr. Bernard Okello a father of 5 referenced how technology has improved education and entertainment and made his life easier as a parent.
“Kids can play games for entertainment or education. It’s an excellent distraction once you need them to be home and productive at the same time. Also, technology has helped our youngsters to be smarter and learn faster.” Okello adds.
“Many more resources are available for us now than then. More books, more articles, better psychological services available, a better understanding of what makes an honest childhood, better everything.” Says Melisa, mother of three.
Melisa adds that as a parent to an adolescent, it’s tough to keep a balance between her children’s freedom to stay online and to come up with strategies to make them follow family rules and values in using the Internet. “Also, because the technologies are developing at an unstoppable speed, many of us parents have lagged in knowledge and skills in using the web than our teenager children, and this limits our power to supervise them effectively” She adds.
Most children and adolescents spend significant time on the Internet every day. Although the Internet offers unique opportunities for knowledge acquisition and social interactions, many children experience inappropriate or upsetting material online.
Children need to be protected, and parents can do this by firstly educating themselves about the sites that their children visit by spending time with them as they surf the web, and secondly, by ensuring they have a reliable solution that protects their children from stumbling on inappropriate or offensive material.
Also, today’s technology allows you to track everything your kids are doing online. You can track where they are and put better limits on what they can see and for how long. Thanks to keylogging, web trackers, and even simple history settings, parents have the power to snoop on their child’s entire digital life. Also advocating boundaries for younger children such as agreeing that they won’t delete their browsing history and blocking certain sites is also a helpful parenting hack in this digital age.
We, unfortunately, have to accept that the internet allows kids to encounter the content we never want them to see. To reduce potential risks, it is a joint responsibility between parents and schools to teach children about online safety but parents are better positioned to do so since children generally trust them more.
Whilst it is completely understandable that parents do not want their children to feel fearful about going online, this mustn’t mean that they take a lax approach to internet safety. Balance is key and an informed child is a safe child. By breaking down the barriers of communication regarding online safety and etiquette, parents ensure that their children get the very best out of their cyber life whilst feeling reassured about their child’s online behavior.
By Ruth Atim | Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow | Paradigm Initiative