Turns out, most of us parents are afraid. And it’s hard not to be. Even before our babies are born, we’re inundated with parenting rules and advice on all sorts of topics from breastfeeding to sleep training. When it comes to screens, we’re warned off of them completely. We’re told that screens will rot their brains, make them unhealthy or violent, or lead them straight to online predators.

In the midst of a global pandemic, screens became our lifelines. So what’s a parent to do?! The hosts of the Moms You Meet podcast sat down to chat with Julie Jargon, the Family and Tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, to dig deep on our screen-phobia and how to approach children and technology in a digital age.

We’re in a Digital Age. Embrace it!

Like it or not, devices and technology are here to stay. While parents of teens and tweens had the chance to gradually ease into a life online, caregivers of younger kids were pushed into the deep end when the pandemic hit. As our lives were forced indoors and online, suddenly screens became a huge source of comfort and an access point to the outside world for all of us—not just teenagers!

Web Smarts

With this shift to increased internet access and device usage, parents are left wondering how to guide their children’s online experience. Jargon likens it to our own analog childhoods where we were told to turn off the television and go play outside. It was a bit of a neighborhood free-for-all, but our parents did give us some rules to keep us safe.

“We’re maybe not sending our kids outside to go explore the neighborhood anymore. We’re letting them loose on the internet.” Jargon says. That comes with a lot of responsibility. The pressures of social media, internet bullying, and the permanence of sharing our lives online is a lot of pressure for young children.

The Family Online Safety Institute is one resource that can help parents establish healthy habits in a home filled with technology. Children and Screens is another recommendation from Jargon. Both websites provide support to caregivers wishing to create family rules, vet kid-friendly websites and apps, as well as tips for starting crucial conversations with kids about online safety.

It’s Not the Device, It’s the Content

It’s important to remember, though, that not all sites, games, and platforms are inherently bad. Jargon advises that parents look deeper to the specific content their child is accessing. “It really comes down to the content, not the device itself,” says Jargon. Sure, we don’t want our kid watching hours of toy-unboxing videos on YouTube, but YouTube also offers children opportunities to learn new skills like creating their own stop-motion movie, conducting a science experiment, or even just listening to a read-aloud story.

Doing the Best We Can

It’s our job as parents to keep our kids safe, both off and online. We’re their first influencers. Our fear of losing control, of losing that position of influence over them is driving most of our anxieties, especially when it comes to the internet.

We’re the first generation to raise digital natives. We aren’t able to ask our parents and grandparents for advice because they didn’t have to deal with this. But we’re not alone in this battle. For parents looking for guidance, listen to the full conversation between Julie Jargon and the Moms You Meet hosts. And don’t forget, there are lots of resources available—on the internet, of course!

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