For many parents and carers, knowing how to support young people with their use of digital media can be challenging, especially if a young person is using websites, apps or games that you aren’t familiar with. Here are some tips to help you to engage with young people on their use of digital media in a positive and productive way.
Parents and carers should talk to children and young people about their use of digital media and try to set agreed time limits around digital media use. It can be helpful for parents and carers to support children and young people to develop a plan to balance time spent online and offline. Offline time can be used to spend time with family and friends, exercising or doing creative tasks that don’t involve digital media.
Apps, websites and other online services have recommended ages in the same way that films do. If you choose to allow younger children below the recommended age to access these, think carefully about their level of understanding around what they might end up viewing.
Parents and carers can set restrictions on devices to block explicit images, certain apps and online purchases. The NSPCC has provided information on how to do this. There are also options for remote device management systems, some of which are free, that can allow parents to have more oversight of things like how long their child has been using an app for.
Parents and carers know their children well, and will often have had lots of conversations with them about other kinds of safety. For example, you may have told them not to run into the road or what to do if someone says or does something to them that they don’t like. However, it’s also important to explain the importance of online safety. Explain to them that the internet is a public place and should be used thoughtfully. Encourage them to talk to someone they trust if something happens to them online that worries or upsets them.
Encourage critical thinking
Explain to children that anyone can post online, and encourage them to think critically about the sites they are visiting. Remind young people that what they see online often does not tell the full picture about a person’s life, and that information online can be misleading or inaccurate.
It can be difficult to start conversations with young people about mental health, but it can help to encourage them to come to you if they have experienced something while using digital media that has upset them. It might be helpful to wait until you are alone with your child and you both have time to talk properly.
Talk about sharing
Take time to have open conversations about sharing images and messages online. It’s important to emphasise that anything young people share with others online isn’t private, even personal or sensitive content. For guidance on sexting and sending naked images, read the section on further help at the end of this leaflet.
Model sensible use
Show children and young people by your actions what good decisions and boundaries around digital media look like. Don’t use devices at meal times and suggest devices are not kept in anyone’s bedrooms at night (where possible). You might find this helpful for you too!