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.
There has been much discussion following the recent blog post by Kim Hall, Director of Women’s ministry at All Saints PCA in Austin, TX.
In it she discusses how she sits with her teenage boys and they look at social media posts together. I think being able to share family time and social media is a great thing, and something that I advocate. It is important that we demonstrate transparency and openness and being able to share our social media together is like sharing the photo album of old. (Provided of course we are mindful about what we are sharing).
The post has gone viral and that is a good thing, as it is hopefully ensuring lots of good conversation and debate around the content. Unfortunately for Kim Hall, it hasn’t all been positive. Although there were some comments regarding the photos she posted of her boys on the same blog (since replaced with more happy family shots), the issue that was setting off alarms for me was around the way she seemed to be encouraging her boys to look at women as sexual objects and to judge them. “I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t quickly un-see it? You don’t want our boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?” she states.
Don’t we all put a towel around ourselves when getting out of the ocean or pool? A towel usually covers more than the bathers underneath surely? Of this poor girl who has been banished from the “Halls” social media and is now forever in the minds of Mrs Hall’s sons pictured in a sexual way – perhaps she is just an innocent copying what she sees all around her online, on television and in videos? Why assume she is trying to seduce?
There are all kinds of warning bells going off. This is akin to saying a girl ‘asks’ for assault by the way she dresses, yet our fashions dictate much to our youth – they are just following trend (even although some of those trends might make us shudder – but hey – many of us lived through the 80s!).
I have written this post because I would like to ensure that we are encouraging discussion and deliberation around these issues, to ensure we examine and explore solutions to a modern problem. What we are posting online is reflecting upon our reputations, but unfortunately much misinformation and prejudice seems to also be rife.
Is it possible that we could see someone in a towel and NOT make a sexual judgment – whose prejudice are we placing in the minds of our children – it’s our own. Don’t get me wrong, I am fearful of the pornographic poses which seem to be so popular, mainly because I fear that our girls are not appreciating their own true inner beauty and intelligence and base their self esteem on mirroring the images they are bombarded with. This is all superficial, and this brings me back to Kim Hall encouraging her boys to only determine friends through such superficial means.
One of the things I have been blessed with, which in all honesty it took me a long time to understand, was to appreciate the diversity of our world. Thanks to life and in part to my own extremely talented children I have discovered that things such as the fact that long hair or really short hair, tattoos, holes in their earlobes, beards or loud music don’t mean that the people who don’t necessarily share my own tastes in haircuts, music or fashion are not highly intelligent valuable people for our society. Every one of us has something we can add to the world in a positive way. You don’t have to have been an A grade student or a graduate with high distinctions to bring amazing things to the world – what you need is belief in yourself and your message. Our children have the ability to change the world in a way never before seen. Neither of my children were straight A students, but both possess passion and belief in their chosen professions, and they put their whole heart into the things they love doing. All of our children have such amazing opportunity. The power of connection and communication is literally at our fingertips, the ability to explore ideas and research vast amounts of information means we don’t really have an excuse to be ignorant anymore.
The zero tolerance policy that Kim Hall has in her own home I understand when it comes to what her children have placed online and their own behaviours, but as a person who is obviously of Christian orientation, I do feel she should encourage tolerance and understanding. There is also a risk that this “banning” will actually arouse more curiosity in her boys.
She states that she “prays for the women my boys will love. I hope they will be drawn to real beauties, the kind of women who will leave them better people in the end. I also pray that my sons will be worthy of this kind of woman, that they will be patient – and act honorably – while they wait for her”. I hope that she is not sitting with her boys, looking at a picture of perhaps a 14 year old girl who has taken a silly photograph of herself (assuming this is a pose in PJ’s as described) and then state that this girl could never bring happiness and joy to anyone? This is the kind of statement which leads our youth to feel disengaged and desperate. I am saddened by such a view.
Those of you with daughters, how does this resonate with you? Would you want your daughter’s condemned for a photo and more so should she be the one who is responsible for ensuring she is not judged sexually by a male? Is she responsible for the fashion of the day? We have surely moved beyond such judgment.
This brings me to the core of my post, the belief that we as parents MUST be the models for our children. If we were more involved perhaps we could curtail some of these youthful mistakes which now rather than being confined to a household are shared with the world. It is our responsibility foremost we must teach our children the values of respect. SELF respect is I believe one the key traits that we must endeavour to encourage in our youth. Perhaps this is the message that has become lost in Kim Hall’s post, but there are other messages she is teaching her children which are not positive traits. I certainly feel that our own prejudice such as passing judgment upon others, particularly children, is NOT something we should be teaching our children. Helping them to identify dangerous behaviours certainly is. The message I believe Kim Hall is trying to convey is that girls have the opportunity to stop, clean up their social media pages and demonstrate their true colours, but she forgets that boys also need to do this. One does not want to accidently encourage self righteous misogynistic views to be developed, and sexual objectification and denigration can be manifestations of such views.
Kim Halls original post has since been removed.
The other day I called up a talk back radio station to add my 5 cents to a discussion on mobile phone etiquette. I mentioned the poor modelling that I feel we do as adults for the youth in our society. Just after that a parent called in to say what a wake up call it was to have her three year old say to her “no more phone mummy”.
A wake up call indeed – I know I have spoken about this often but again I ask you – just what is it that we are modelling to our children when we prioritise a lump of plastic and circuits (our phone!) over their needs? Our children learn from every tiny interaction. Perhaps I should actually say THE children – because it’s not just your children or my children, it is the children we are sitting beside on the train, or in the cinema. We allow our phones to invade our lives to such a degree now that it is having a negative effect on relationships and development in my opinion. All this was prior to the viral “Phubbing” campaign which is now exploding around the world.
Not to be a hypocrite, I love my phone and I know I seem to be always using it – whether as a phone or for some other function, however I am becoming more and more aware from my own research. I have certain rules which I would never change – I turn off the phone in meetings, the cinema or theatre, and depending who I’m with we make agreements as to whether phones are in or out. I’m getting much better at putting it away or turning the phone on silent or do not disturb if I just need to use the camera. Even then, the urge to instagram or immediately share photos is strong. Depending who I am with or how excited I am about it I may post immediately, or sometimes I leave it til later. The learning curve to balance life and technology is a tricky one! But I’m not a child and I can make these decisions and logically look at the pros and cons. It is harder for a child to be able to see that having the phone with them everywhere is not really a good idea, they are learning to live their lives forever connected.
How often do you see teens in a cafe not even talking to each other, just sitting there having conversations with their phones or playing candy crush! Ask them and they are happy just being in each others company. So is that a problem? It’s lovely that they are ease with each other, but are they developing their communication skills and ability to discuss things face to face? There are times with my own (adult) children that we have found it easier to sort out a disagreement via text because it puts a space between us. I tried to look at that as a benefit of phones, but instead I think it actually shows that our ability to discuss and work through an issue face to face has been eroded – and that is NOT a good thing by any standard. Communication is both beautiful and can be so difficult, but is an essential part of our lives, without it we become detached from not just society but ourselves.
Each generation is being born into a world further invaded (and supported) by technology and I feel that new parents need to be the ones leading the change. We still don’t really know the effects of all this extra radiation bouncing about, although evidence does strongly suggest that mobile phones should not be put to the ears of young children who’s skulls are still quite thin. So should young Mum’s be on the phone whilst breast or bottle feeding? Feeding your baby is one of the most special, intimate and quiet times – there is bonding and gentle communication – some things should be sacred and mobile phones should not be part of this experience. Our babies deserve our FULL attention surely? I certainly believe so.
It all really comes back to respect. Respect for the people we are with and around at any given time.
So are our phones too invasive? Should we start having NO PHONE zones like there are on public transport in Japan?
What are your thoughts?
Why is if that some people see attempts to educate our children in online safety, and to protect them from inappropriate material as censorship?
Personally I valve our freedom of speech highly and I certainly prefer education and self-regulation over legislation. However our most vulnerable, our children need time to develop the skills required to make better, more informed choices, and it does them no favors to force adult behaviors on them from a very young age.
Parents must step up and take responsibility for the things they allow their children to do and see, particularly between the ages of 3-12.
One could I suppose, argue this is censorship, but these are children and,we as the adults have the responsibility to guide them and teach them well,
I do not see educating parents and children in online safety as censorship, in fact I believe it frees them to be able make much better choices. Is it not an oxymoron? To not advocate choice to learn is a type of censorship in itself! True freedom comes from choice ~ to be empowered to choose what is appropriate and what is not. To be empowered with knowledge to make informed choice.
That freedom should extend to not having mass media saturate our children with adult images and behaviours- we are not giving our kids choice now!
There is no harm in teaching our children values and respect. Developing empathy and resilience empowers them to make more informed choices later in life. The harm l believe comes from Not teaching these valves.