My morning walk route takes me past a school that usually has its assembly at 7:00 am. I catch glimpses of students praying, reading out the news, teachers giving talks and often stop to watch them do their morning drill. It’s an arresting sight – 500 kids in bright uniforms moving in a synchronized manner to drumbeats. The school is doing it right; light exercises before the start of the academic day helps to enhance positivity, concentration power, alertness and readiness to learn. After all it’s an age-old saying, ‘A healthy mind resides in a healthy body.’
Perhaps you are wondering why McAfee Cybermum is discussing health. Well, 7th April was World Health Day and what better time than this to have a heart-to-heart on good health, especially, good digital health?
Let’s accept it- we are parents, first and foremost, and our focus is always (even when we are sleeping or partying or just chilling) on our kids. All we want is to raise happy, well-adjusted kids who will be able to think rationally and act for themselves and know how to stay safe- both in the real and in the digital world.
When we were kids, outdoors was the place to be! Life centered around our gardens, parks and roads outside our houses; where we spent hours playing, chatting or just hanging around. Today’s digital kids also play and socialize a lot, but the bulk of it happens online. They have their favourite hanging out zones, gaming sites, digital libraries, social media etc. We all are quite tech-savvy and so, we are well aware how addictive digital activities can be as well as how the long hours spent online can have adverse effects on health and mind. This is why we worry when our kids prefer digital lives to the real one; we take measures like setting device-use rules and see red if the rules are breached.
But losing our cool isn’t the solution- we need to promote a balanced digital life, right from the day the little tykes mark their initiation into the digital world and educate them and act as their digital role models.
Here’s how you can ensure a healthy digital life for your kids:
Health is wealth
Play games, swim, run, exercise, go for treks! It’s also a good opportunity to show them that devices can be put to other uses besides gaming and socializing, viz; tracking activity and monitoring health statistics. When they are using devices, teach them the right postures so that they don’t strain their back or eyes.
Balance is the keyword
Often, we forget to practice what we preach- which, in this case, is to have some device-free hours. Keep your device away (a) when with family, (b) when there’s company, and (c) during bedtime. Children will protest and perhaps bawl, but will also learn a valuable lesson, rather two lessons – There are other sources of entertainment besides devices, and a NO means NO. While the first lesson is important to lead a balanced digital life, the second one is important for them in the real world too.
Fix up an activity schedule that includes household chores
Not only will this help to maintain digital balance, it will also give the child the first lesson in responsibility. Whether it is making their own beds, cleaning out their wardrobes or helping to wash the car or set the table, these are values you are teaching kids non-verbally. Even little tykes can do small tasks and trust me, it will make them feel proud. Just take care that the daily timetable doesn’t start resembling an army cadet’s training schedule.
Set clear-cut rules
This helps kids learn discipline. Stress on how excessive use is akin to misuse. Their daily schedule should specify timings for device use. If they breach the timings, bring it up immediately. Repeated breaches need to be tackled firmly. Maybe the privilege of using the device needs to be surrendered for a few days. This, you as a parent need to decide.
Let them know you will be remotely monitoring their activities
It’s recommended that you mentor kids in the digital world till they are mature enough to handle matters responsibly themselves. Use parental controls that come with comprehensive security tools like McAfee Total Protection or McAfee LiveSafe and keep the admin password a secret. BUT LET YOUR KIDS KNOW you would be supervising them online. Explain it’s similar to how you keep an eye on them at public places. Remember to set internet timings and filters.
Have purposeful family activity time
Use that evening hour before or after dinner to chat, play board games, tell stories or discuss the news. Share, play, connect- the perfect ingredients for a close-knit family! And of course, all devices, including the digital assistant, is off-limit during this time.
Teach kids to be upstanders
Online abuse can lead to emotional disturbances in vulnerable kids. Even adults are negatively affected by cyberbullying and trolling and so you can understand the impact of such behavior on kids. Give your kids the security of your love and trust so that they grow up to be strong and confident and can stand up against bullies.
Discuss cybersafety often and with due seriousness
Living in the connected age, where we all use the same router for our devices along with other smart devices like CCTV, digital assistants etc., it is important to reinforce how the carelessness of one can affect the safety and privacy of all other family members. A safe and secure net connection is needed for mental wellness.
So, what are you waiting for? Start working on your family’s digital health today!