A common mistake is to view the internet as a thing. It makes sense because it’s a tool that we use to look up information and to connect with others. The problem is that when we think of the internet as a thing we treat it as such.
When your child is struggling with online connections we might take the “thing” away. When your child has been online for too long we might turn the “thing” off. Again, it all makes sense. The problem is that the internet is more of a “place” than a “thing”.
Kids will often say, “My parents just don’t get it, I’m not addicted to social media, I’m addicted to my friends!”. And herein lies our first clue, social media. Social media has become a “place” for ongoing social engagement. Kids and adults frequently interact with each other in this “place”. Just think of yourself for a second. How many text chains do you have going where you and a friend or family member text back and forth? Likely tons and the setting for all your interactions is the digital realm.
So if we propose you view the internet as a place, what are some things that we need to consider to make the best of it?
Remember that today is much different than when you grew up. Children (and adults) no longer make plans over phone calls or in person like we used to. Think about it? How often do you text a friend or family member to solidify a plan to meet up? Kids are the same. So it’s important to remember that cutting your child off from the digital “place” might be cutting them off from their friends all together.
When you take a young child to a park, you watch over them to make sure they are safe. The younger they are the closer you watch. Well the same goes for this “place” called the internet. When your children are young, keeping a closer eye on their online interactions is critical. There are also endless opportunities, just like a playground, to help your child learn how to interact with others in this “place” in a positive and healthy manner.
Being in one place for too long isn’t always healthy. Being at work from dawn till dusk can take its toll over time, just like being on the internet 24/7 can too. Making sure you and your children have agreements in place on when to shut off is important. One of the easiest ways to disconnect is to go to another “place” (the great outdoors)!