Author and online reputation educator Fiona Lucas shares 5 ways to balance “real” life and social media to connect with your family for the best of both worlds!
Families are so busy these days that it may seem easier for parents to leave children playing with smartphones, ipads and other devices to keep them entertained. These devices and online games can be highly addictive and once habits form, it can be very hard to break them.
We need to try and find a balance so that we remember that our devices are merely tools to help us to achieve a goal, and are not more important that spending time with each other. We don’t want our future childhood memories to consist of the high score they got on “angry birds”! Further the “good” use of the internet and social media platforms is becoming more and more integrated into the way our children learn at school, so we must ensure that we are able to support our children as they learn and not allow a ‘digital divide’ to grow.
We have put together some suggestions to help parents find ways to engage with their children using a balance of “real” experiences and online fun. This allows us to create an environment where our children see that our online tools are just that – tools that can add to an overall experience, but they are not the only experience.
Here are five ways that you can start engaging and having fun with your family, mixing up both online fun and real life fun to make a much more complete experience and create memories to last. By enjoying time together you can make the online experience safer because you are there to guide and monitor your child’s online time.
1. Create a family day trip scrapbook:
Organise a day trip, to the local zoo or fun park, you might like to involve extended family or friends.
Take photographs on the day (make sure you ask for parental permission if you take photos of other children). When you get home, or the next day or so, put aside a couple of hours to play with the kids and create a scrapbook album on your chosen social media platform. You might like to use Pinterest or Facebook.
If you are involving your children we highly recommend keeping the albums private – just for you and your family (you might choose to allow access by extended family). Have your children help you make up titles for the photos but don’t “tag” any of them with names.
Sit with your children and look up information on some of the animal or activities that you did during the day. You could then help your children to make comments on the photos with some of the facts. For example a title on the photo might be Mummy Giraffe and baby. The comment could be: A baby giraffe is called a calf. Giraffes can have necks up to 2 metres long. They have really long tongues too.
You might then look for fun (and age appropriate games to play). For example at Africa games there is a hungry giraffe game and they also have interesting facts about Africa.
2. Go on a real life treasure hunt! Geocaching experiences can be lots of fun!
Ever tried geocaching? Its fun, gets you outdoors and is a great way to show how your smartphone is really just a tool! Did you know that around the world geocaching enthusiasts have been hiding various “treasures” and marking them via GPS for others to find. Little trinkets (stickers, balls, toys from things like kinder surprise) are hidden to find and trade, along with a log book so you can mark when you found it, and leave something else for others to find. There are now over 6 million geocachers worldwide and over 2,214,540 active geocaches (treasure spots) across the world.
All you need is a GPS or an iphone. You can download a geocaching app for around $10 or create an account here and discover what’s hidden in your area (and around the world). A basic account is free, but if you really find you are enjoying it you might choose to join (annually around $30). Find our more here geocaching.com Beginners experiences are marked in green on the site. Check the details as some are more complex than others. Don’t do microcaching to start – they are very tiny and hard to find. Start with the bigger ones.
The only rule is that when you find a cache, whatever you take you replace with something of similar value.
Why not don your pirate gear with the kids and head off on a geocaching adventure!
3. Get APPY!
Hold an APP party where you all compare and talk about the different apps your children are playing with on their mobile devices. This is a great opportunity to talk about safety of apps and to check out just what your kids are playing with online. Take a good look at the types of advertising particularly on free apps and consider whether some apps are “grooming” for future gambling. You might discover some great new apps, and you might find there are some you decide to delete as well. Make sure you discuss with your child the pros and cons and help guide them to make the right decisions about the apps they are using.
4. Paper Chain Family
Here’s a bit of fun. Create some paper chain people or paper dolls and decorate them to represent your family members. Have fun posing them in places like around a tree and take a photo – then take a photo with the actual family doing the same thing. Stay safe, but you can have lots of fun. (add some of the photos to the family scrapbook you created in number 1 above. This is a great opportunity to have a few silly photos taken and then discuss what it might mean to have them online. There are bound to be a few that the kids say “oh yuk, no don’t post that”, and that is exactly what you need to bring a discussion into the space about respecting the rights of others and not posting pictures without their consent.
5. Savvy Shopping skills
With so much of our spending being online and via card, it’s hard for our children to understand that there is not an never ending supply of money. Play “online shopping” but use toy money and see how “savvy” your little budgeters can get. This is a great way to teach your children that money runs out and that prices vary. They will start to understand concepts around making better choices when they can see that the money doesn’t last. If you want to, you could give a small real prize for the one who shows restraint and compares prices (maybe some pocket money or a new money box!).
With more and more of our time being “screen time” it is vital that we seek to educate our children (and ourselves) early in finding balance, not just for on and off screen time, but balance between onscreen play and enjoying family activities offline.
Guiding our children as they grow up online can be tricky for parents. If you have enjoyed this post you may be interested in Futureproof your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.
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We hope you enjoy our suggestions and would love to learn of other ways you use social media to engage effectively with your child. Please let us know in the comments below.
You are most welcome to share this post on your social networks and parent groups. Help to spread the message for safe and balanced social media use.
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline, providing education, training and strategies on managing your online reputation and social media. She is passionate about making the online world a more supportive and happier environment for all. She is the Author of Future Proof your kids.