We all are living in a digital age. Many Muslim parents have begun to feel like it is impossible to keep up with it. Their plugged-in children speak a strange language. And they have many chances for learning and growth that we did not experience in our days. Even if you don’t get to know every nuance of the digital world, it’s vital to set rules. Don’t know how? No worries. Here are some chock-full of nuggets to help Muslim parents be role models for your digital children.
First of All: Know the World in Which Your Digital Children Live
Parenting is hard, no doubt. The key is to explore the digital world of your children. You have to set proper rules that work.
Think of the ways that make your kids — from preschoolers to teens — happy digital children. And, then, create different device rules based on their ages:
Birth to Preschool (2- to 5-year olds)
This age group is not at all immune to the digital world. Some children can operate a phone before they can even walk. As such, you have to pay close attention to screen time limits and the rightness of the content.
Young Elementary (5- to 10-year olds)
Children of this age group are often able to operate cellphones. They do not need your guidance. But they still require you for proper and safe use.
Tweens (10- to 12-year olds)
In many ways, tweens may appear to rule the digital world. That is why many tech companies create products that cater to this age group. Your rules for tweens may require fewer limits but are likely to cover more devices.
Teens (12- to 18-year olds)
Teens want freedom, and they also need technology. At this age, they start to lay down their digital footprint and make decisions that may affect their entire lives. Although teens will get many options, they may also require much guidance.
1. Set Screen Time Rules for Digital Children
The most basic place to start is to set screen time limits. It is a highly debated topic among parents today as well. On average, teens spend nine hours on screens. But only a small percentage of that time devoted to learning. Melinda Wenner Moyer — an award-winning science journalist who writes for Slate, Mother Jones, Scientific American and O, and The Oprah Magazine — wrote:
If you had asked me [a few years ago] how I felt about digital media as a parent, I would have had an answer ready: Our kids…won’t own devices or touch social media until age 13… Then the coronavirus happened. All of my clever plans flew out the window. Now, my 8-year-old practically lives on our family tablet — doing a bit of online learning, sure, but also games, chat, FaceTime and email. Our 5-year-old is not that far behind. And really, who can blame us? My husband and I want our kids to feel socially connected even as we isolate ourselves in our home… Screen time has become our life line.
Sounds familiar? We all are floating on the same boats. So screens are here to stay, and managing screen time is the real challenge. Positive screen use is thus possible. But you have to guide your digital children with consistency.
2. Set Mobile Phone Usage Rules for Your Digital Children
Set mobile phone usage rules. It is vital when your child reaches tween age. Discuss this topic with your child. Be sure to answer:
- When can your child use the phone? Is it for weakened use or just after school? Can your child use it at home? Or, is it just when you are not with them?
- What are reasons for using phone? Is the purpose only to call home in an emergency or change in schedule? Or, can your child use it socially to chat with friends?
- What constitutes an emergency? Is it appropriate for your children to call to request that a forgotten homework be dropped off at school? Or, is that an abuse of phone rights?
If your child has a smartphone with apps, you need to include rules for app purchases and downloads.
3. Create Internet Safety Tips for Your Digital Children
The vast majority of teens and tweens can access the Internet. And many remain unsupervised. Thus, as recommended by Kathleen A. Morris, you should set clear use rules to protect both your kids and you.
As tweens are old enough to use the Internet, you should discuss when and how to share emails. Most sites that require account creation also need the disclosure of emails. Ask tweens to get your permission before sharing emails with anyone.
Search engines are gateways to nearly endless info. But they also connect your digital children to an often unfiltered world. Be sure your kids:
- Do not use search engines before a certain age
- Have a supervised use
- Do no image searches
- Use search engines with parental controls only
- Use them for learning purposes.
Approved and Banned Sites
If your child spends time on the Internet without your direct guidance, consider creating two lists:
- Approved: This list contains only sites your children can access. Bookmark them to make them handy. Allow your child to update the list as they get older and learn about new and suitable sites.
- Banned: Consider creating a list if you don’t want your child to visit specific popular-yet-inapt sites. You can revisit this list later to remove or add sites as you see fit.
Social Media and Chat
Many sites provide your children with the ability to chat with strangers. Therefore, be sure to:
- Check which social media sites your children can join in by age group
- Restrict sites
- Instruct them about privacy settings on social media
- Set rules about parent access to each child-owned account
- Guide them to create friend lists, including whether parental approval is essential before adding someone to a list
- Set rules for chatting on all platforms, including what level of chat you allow.
Make sure your child hangs out in an age-appropriate atmosphere. Networks such as Facebook aren’t for tweens or younger kids… but what do your children do before teenage? Most join in communities that allow them to interact with others, but in different ways from Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.
Not ready to let your child make a social media profile? Consider creating a shared account. You can build a family Facebook page and update it together.
4. Set Gaming Rules for Your Digital Children
Video games are a part of everyday living. That is why many handheld devices are available for 18 months to 18 years olds. Brainstorming games doesn’t work anymore. So don’t let your digital children video game addict (see the signs). Their lives will become unruly.
Some rating systems assign age and content ratings for all games. An example is the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating system. It also gives you feedback focusing on such areas as violence or sexual content.
Be specific. You may add exceptions on a game-by-game basis after previewing content or reading a game summary. This way you’ll be able to set parental controls on each of your children’s devices to enforce such restrictions.
Co-play and Social Gaming
Many game consoles come with co-plays (with one or multiple players) via Wi-Fi. Be sure to set specific rules, including whether your child can play such games with kids online.
5. Be a Digital Role Model for Your Digital Children
COVID has made the use of screens a virtual lifeline for school and social connection. Balancing it today has thus become even more complex. But it doesn’t change the fact that the Internet is an essential tool for learning.
Remember: “Real learning isn’t passive, it’s active.”
The onus is thus on you as parents to be role models for your digital children. As such, give them an experience that’s fun, educational, safe, and appropriate.
Some Quran learning institutes aim to recreate the schooling experience your child has in the classroom. If you live miles from your nearest madrassas, it’s the best way for your child to go for it. Your child will receive three-to-five, 30-minute active sessions a week of one-to-one classes with experts.
Bottom line: Raising digital children is hard, no doubt. No policy is easy to implement. It comes with costs that follow each rule. Decide what is best for you and your child. Then, get ready to enforce that policy. But whatever costs it may have, be sure to talk to your child to make it clear.
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