By Dickson Tumuramye
Parenting in the contemporary world is continuously proving a complex task given our children are exposed to new technologies every day.
Sadly, most parents are not as technologically savvy as their children.
Except for those in villages, most one-year-old children of today can already swipe a smartphone because they watch their parents, older brothers, sisters and other relatives within their vicinity do the same.
Besides, today’s children spend more time watching TV and using smartphones; scrolling through Facebook, whatsapp or instagram.
YouTube and Netflix have made it now unnecessary for people to go to video libraries or buy DVD players in order to watch movies because everything is available on our smartphones, TV sets and computers.
The too much exposure makes control not as easy as many parents would prefer.
There are parents who are permissive. They do not care about the kind of content their children watch, reading and post on social media.
When a teen asks for data bundles to watch movies or be on social media, some parents buy without a second thought.
They literally never have time to know what a child does with that data.
Through excessive exposure to the internet, games and other information technology-related apps and gadgets, children get addicted to those gadgets.
Symptoms of addiction can include sleeping disorders, poor eating habits, withdrawal from family members, anxiety, disappearance from family activities such as prayers, meal times, discussions, less time to play and limited child-parent/family interaction.
Youth often become inefficient at work because they watch movies or are on social media throughout the day.
You need to set clear boundaries between the time you spend on those technology and screen, both at home and away.
Limit the time your children spend on electronic gadgets and make sure you enforce the restrictions consistently without fear or favour.
The fact that some children are more knowledgeable than their parents in this digital era leaves parents with no choice, but to incorporate digital media into their daily activities and parenting practices.
As a parent, learn how to use some or all the gadgets, be on social media platforms to get a sense of what transpires there and deal with issues of addiction or overuse from an informed perspective.
It is embarrassing to be so tough on something you are less informed or have no idea about.
Your children may choose to use some language or slangs that isolate you in ignorance when they are actually misusing the technologies.
You, therefore, need regular involvement in your child’s internet activities.
If you use wireless devices in your home, only allow them to be used in living rooms and not in the privacy of bedrooms where you may not know what children do and where you have no control.
If you sense anything shady, do not ignore it. Seize the bull by its horns and save the situation.
It is not easy for young people to admit there is a problem and that they need help.
But do your part consistently, reminding them of the dire consequences that may be irreversible.
Do not take things for granted. Pay attention to non-verbal communication during interactions.
But your interaction should also be positive, stress-free and not condemning.
Withdraw any gadgets taking up most of your child’s time. If you cannot completely remove it, for instance if it is a TV set in your sitting room, deny them watching certain programs and explain why they are not good for them.
It is better to provide alternatives to keep them busy. Provide quality time to watch some programmes with your children and where necessary, watch programmes together.
Maintain a free relationship with your children to enable you get information from them.
You can use parental control to stop certain apps or programmes on their gadgets. Use some apps that can help you monitor what your children do with their gadgets.
Check the messages they share in their social media groups and the kind of friends they chat with.
Some children are cunning and you may never know, but try your best.
Avoid installing gadgets in your children’s bedroom or leaving them with gadgets that you well know are dangerous.
How about you?
Are you modeling what you are trying to control or your children are learning the bad habits from you? Some prevention measures have to begin with you, the parent.
Children may be learning the undesirable habits from you. So, you have to be careful how you use your gadgets while they are watching.
The writer is a child advocate, parenting coach, marriage counselor
and founder – Men of Purpose Mentorship program.