Wednesday 13 November 2019

Sign on the dotted line

Rather than taking a 'you versus them' approach to regulating your children's technology usage, involve them in the decisions. But above all, get it down in writing

PARENTS who set up 'contracts' with their children around technology usage could end up saving their children and themselves a lot of heartache in the future. That's according to forensic psychologist and Laya Healthcare online expert, Dr Maureen Griffin. She says such contracts can help allay fears around cyber-bullying and a parent's lack of control over what children do and see online.

Griffin says the contract should have four main sections: what you expect from your child; what your child can expect from you; dos and don'ts; and situations and how to respond.

What you expect from your child

Things you may expect from your child include no phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom at night time. Griffin also recommends getting them to agree that they will come to you if they are worried about something that happens when they are online.

What your child can expect from you

For this section, include a notice that you will pay all or part of their phone bills, if that is the agreement. Griffin advises including a section that says you have the right to "spot check their phone, and that you have their Apple ID for all app downloads".

Dos and don'ts of mobile phone usage

Involving your child in creating the rules and sanctions around their phone usage will give them a sense of empowerment. So sit down with them and get them to draw up a list. This could include the amount of time they're allowed to use it; how they should interact with people on it, what apps they are and are not allowed to download, etc. It's vital that you get their feedback.

Situations and how to respond

As part of the contract, provide advice on what your child should do if certain situations arise. For example, if they feel bullied online, or receive abusive messages, detail how they can block individuals.

Griffin says it's important that, as your child matures, you revisit the contract to give them more freedom.

Laya Healthcare has teamed up with Griffin to produce a series of practical video seminars for parents, covering the topics of online gaming, mobile phone safety, social media safety and cyberbullying. Go to layahealthcare.ie/onlinesafety.

Irish Independent

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