Focus on the Family Africa recently hosted a parenting event in various cities around South Africa called “Surviving and Thriving” to help parents raise their children in the face of challenges created by the digital age.
Rob Parsons and Katharine Hill, two well-known parenting experts from the United Kingdom who have both written many best-selling books on parenting, gave valuable tips on how to cope with the dangers children are exposed to online.
According to recent stats on the iMe movement website the average age of exposure to pornography is 11 years, 68% of parents do not think that their kids have experienced anything bothersome and don’t think it is likely and 49% of parents never speak to their children about online safety or what to do when someone online bothers or upsets them.
Research further reveals that pornography is not just a real problem overseas but that South Africa is the top mobile device consumer on Pornhub. The number of teens with their own smartphones increased dramatically from 2012 to 2018.
Hill said that most parents find that the knowledge their children have on the use of the internet and media devices sometimes surpasses theirs and that it can be intimidating. But she said that parents need to foster a positive relationship with their children around technology use.
“Don’t always bombard them with negative advice but rather have some fun with them harnessing technology, like taking selfies together.”
But the buck does not stop there. She says the way in which parents use technology has a great influence on how their children will use it, especially from a young age. “There need to be set boundaries in the house on when and where technology is used and those rules need to be followed by everyone.
She says having a family charger in the living room where everyone’s phones are charged overnight is a good place to start. “Children and especially teenagers should not be allowed to have their phones with them during the night.”
She says parents don’t have to try to be cool, they should focus on staying informed and guiding their children on how to use technology, especially the internet.
“It is of paramount importance to use various digital tools to monitor a child’s online use. You should be able to see how many hours a child spends online, limit their capacity to roam the net freely and know which sites the child accesses so that you can step in and help them when they are exposed to things that could be dangerous.”
She recommended that a child should only get a smartphone later in life when the parents have had an opportunity to lay a strong foundation of values that will help the child to make good decisions even when the parent is not present.
She said parents need to invest in their child’s self-worth in their formative years so that when they are confronted with another worldview on social media, they will be able to fall back on the values that were taught to them from an early age.
“It is so easy to get lost on social media, when the world teaches us to focus on how we look, what we wear, and where we live, rather than valuing the person we are. If our children know that they are loved by us, no matter the mistakes they make, they will be able to navigate social media with less dire consequences.”
Parsons said children have many best friends but only us as parents. “It is our job to battle with them on issues that form their values; we cannot always be the good guy as boundaries create security.”
He said discipline in a family setting should be seen as a tool to instil a value system that would benefit children in the long run. “We don’t want our children to grow up with a best friend; we want them to become responsible adults.”
For more information on the statistics of Internet use go to: https://www.imemovement.co.za/digital-addiction-statistics/ or listen to an interview with Errol Naidoo of the Family Policy Institute with the iMemovement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQCKQVaLh0I&t=1557s