Many children today are deeply immersed in digital apps and games often to the extent that it becomes an integral part of their lives, much like food and drink.
Seeking professional help in such cases is essential. There are local and national professionals available who specialize in assisting parents facing this significant challenge.
Many parents have shared concerns about their high school-age children who “live and breathe these apps and games,” and they hope there is still time left to be effective with their younger ones.
Gen Z, aged 11-26, has been captivated by apps and games, often without proper guidance and with little monitoring. Their unbridled and fearless exploration within these virtual realms reaches depths and levels both amazing and frightening.
There is a concerning lack of awareness among both adults and youth regarding the profound impact of these apps and games.
Parents may have initially been pleased to see their children engaged and enthusiastic, without fully understanding the potential risks involved. Unbeknownst to them, seeds of influence have been sown, nourished, and are quietly taking hold.
While it is important to address the needs of Gen Z, (11-26), it is crucial to acknowledge that the Alpha Generation has grown up with the virtual world as their primary reality. This digital realm provides them with a sense of comfort, as it presents boundless opportunities and captivating graphics.
Your children’s virtual world has few rules, dreams can be unlimited, visuals are surreal. They find pleasure online, a sense of “high”, when plugged in.
Understand that these apps and games are developed to be effective, intense, seductive, and primarily online. The online environment allows virtually unlimited possibilities for what our children see, hear, feel, and experience. Online games link their world to the virtual world.
Our children journey through challenge levels, going deeper into more complex virtual worlds. These worlds are real to them, and they become part of their everyday interactions with classmates, friends, and oftentimes new “stranger friends”. In the spirit of promoting a healthy parent-child relationship and a balanced approach to technology use, consider the following:
Establish Trust and Open Communication-Instead of solely relying on passwords, strive to build trust with your children regarding their digital activities. Encourage open communication where they feel comfortable discussing their online experiences with you. Teach them about responsible internet use and potential dangers.
Teach Responsible Device Usage-Set agreed-upon guidelines for device use, such as designated bedtime charging spots or turning off notifications during specific hours.
Promote Digital Literacy and Safety-Teach your children about online safety, privacy, and responsible behavior. Encourage them to understand the consequences of their actions online and guide them to make informed decisions. Consider using parental control software or filters to limit exposure to inappropriate content. Discuss the reasons openly with your children openly, emphasizing that it’s for their safety and well-being rather than an invasion of their privacy. Balance monitoring with trust and give them the opportunity to earn more independence as they demonstrate responsible behavior.
Nurture the Parent-Child Relationship-While it’s important to prioritize your children’s needs, maintaining a balance between being a loving parent and setting boundaries is crucial. Engage in activities together where everyone in the household disconnects from technology and participates in alternative activities. Whether to work or play outdoors, it is mentally healthy to take a break from being hooked to a screen. Encourage your children to explore new hobbies, engage in physical activities, or develop creative pursuits that provide a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Foster a supportive environment where children feel loved, understood, and guided.
Promote a healthy and responsible approach to technology use while maintaining open lines of communication and trust with your children. Adapt these suggestions to your family’s specific needs and values. Always be willing to adapt and learn alongside your children as technology evolves.
Encourage Offline Family Activities and Digital Balance
Recognize the importance of taking breaks from digital devices and dedicating quality time to family activities. In our increasingly connected world, keep an eye out for practical ways to promote healthier habits. I will share a personal example from my blended family life with two sets of children, aged between 5 and 10 in one household. Starting early July (of 2007), we implemented a rule that held throughout the summer:
We had two days a week with no electronics. Although there was initial resistance, by the third day, it became a highly anticipated break, as they eagerly planned their alternative activities. They quickly discovered numerous interesting pursuits, such as sports, books, outside games, even writing and performing plays. We all loved it.
In times when your children are tethered to the digital world, consider these tips to help ensure their safety, especially when they are online. Lead by example. Be mindful of your own media habits. Do you turn on the TV the moment you walk into your home? Do you find yourself constantly seeking something to watch or record? Opt for alternatives like playing music whether old or current, or perhaps rotate preferred playlists. This can open up new channels of communication between you and foster connections. Take the first 15 minutes upon arriving home without the TV on to focus on sharing, discussing, and influencing how your evening may shape up. Engage in meaningful conversations by asking open-ended questions about their day. Make it a routine at the dinner table to ask everyone to report on their highs and lows for the day.
In regard to games and gaming time, follow these steps:
- Research the game. Before allowing your child to play a digital game, take the time to determine if it is appropriate for their age and maturity level.
- Set parental controls. Most gaming platforms and devices offer parental controls that allow you to limit access to specific games and content, set time limits, and control in-game purchases. Utilize these features to create a safe environment for your child.
- Discuss potential dangers. Have open conversations with your child about the potential risks of online gaming, including cyberbullying, meeting strangers in person, and sharing personal information online. Educate them on the importance of staying safe and responsible while gaming.
- Monitor their activity. Keep a watchful eye on your children’s online gaming activity Be aware of who they are playing with and what they are saying. This will help you stay informed and ensure their well-being.
- Keep personal information private. Remind your children never to share personal information, such as their name, address, phone number, or school, with strangers online. Discuss with them how to handle temptations to share this information with other players, which could put them at risk.
- Be aware of costs. Some digital games involve in-game purchases, which can add up quickly. Set limits on in-game spending and monitor your children’s purchases. Stay informed about costs.
- Beware of location tracking and personal information collection. Online games may employ location tracking or collect personal information for advertisers, each of which can pose risks to the privacy and safety of children. Stay informed about the tracking practices associated with the games your children play.
- Teach online etiquette. Instill in your children the importance of being respectful and kind to others when playing online games. Encourage them to report any bullying or inappropriate behavior to you or the game’s moderators.
It’s important to be aware of certain safety concerns for all online activities:
Online games and social media may provide opportunities for predators to target children and arrange to meet them in person. Cyberbullying can be common in online gaming and social media. Discuss these issues with your children and ensure they know how to handle and report such incidents. Digital attacks such as hacking and phishing can threaten your personal information and accounts.
Use reliable antivirus software to protect your computer or devices from viruses, malware, other online threats. Temptations to share personal information may compromise safety. Online gaming and social media can be highly addictive. Excessive gaming or time spent on social media can lead to addiction and have negative effects on a child’s health, social life, and academic performance.
Remember, as parents, grandparents, and guardians it’s important for you to stay engaged, set boundaries, and provide a balanced approach to your children’s gaming activity and social media. You indeed play a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of your children in the digital world. Stay informed, adapt these suggestions to your family’s specific needs and value.
Continuously learn alongside your children as technology evolves. If needed, seek professional help from mental health and parent-children specialists that are listed under the resources tab on this website.
The world seeks to influence and guide our children through these apps and games that they use daily.
While the virtual world can be both friendly and fierce, the information provided on this website, including details about apps and games, resources and links to mental health professionals, blogs and wisdom tips, is here to help you stay current and informed. Take some time to explore the website. We will add new content each month or as events dictate. Technology undeniably offers advantages that enhance and simplify our daily lives, but wisdom lies in finding a healthy balance.
Remember, life is to be lived and experienced beyond the confines of screens. Engaging with the digital world has its limitations. True fulfillment comes from actively participating in real-life experiences. Life is a precious gift that should be enjoyed, shared, and fully embraced. It is within the various arenas of life that we discover true richness and meaning.