At Savvy Cyber Kids, we get a lot of questions about gender based technology habits – if they differ from one another or if there are more risks for one than another. Articles and studies, including a recent one from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, will posit that boys are more interested in gaming than girls because girls are more concerned with how they present themselves on social media than boys are, making gaming the more common choice for boys. That may be true, but the reality is that 46% of girls are, in fact, gamers. So maybe the question to ask is how do our kids, regardless of gender or activity, feel about their online worlds?
While you may be wondering which is better or safer for kids – social media or gaming – it’s sort of a moot question because it’s not the parents’ POV that shapes a kid’s technology interests. It’s more the personality of each child that determines what online worlds are attractive to them. And all, of course, all have their selling points and pitfalls. The bottom line is that any online interaction with others – whether in a game or on TikTok, has the potential to have a negative impact on your child. So, it’s not always a question of what your child is doing online, rather a question of how they respond outwardly and inwardly to the activity – both in the moment and over time.
Quietly observe your child ’s relationship to social media and gaming – or whatever platform they gravitate to – to understand if technology is negatively impacting your child’s self-esteem is key. Remember, each child is different and some kids are more affected than others. Talk to your kids about how they FEEL about their online activities more than what they DO online.
Do this and you may find yourself in a real conversation with your child (gasp). Discussing similar topics with your child’s peers present sometimes allows the dialogue to go deeper with details and scenarios. It also helps to encourage your child’s friend’s group to be a sounding board for each other.
You can talk to your child about best online practices until you are blue in the face and then be greeted with ‘whatevers’. But they still do hear you. Despite any opposition or ambivalence they present, you are helping them mold the inner voice that will guide them in the future, whether a week from now or months or years from now. And since their friends will likely always know more about what your child does independent from you than you will, it’s good to inspire them to be accountable towards each other.
- Have you noticed that your child compares themselves to others? Gently ask your child if they noticed themselves doing this and why, Offer positive feedback to build them up.
- How much time and energy does your child spend on gaming or on what they posted on social media? Ask your child if they think their online behaviors limit them from doing something else? Talk about offline activities, such as family, school, and community involvement that could be added to their lives.
- Talk about the importance of balance and moderations and ways your child can learn to self-regulate overconsumption of media. Make sure you share where you yourself have the same struggles and what your personal solutions are.
- Talk about the importance of self-esteem, how online worlds can make one feel less about themselves and how those feelings can negatively impact offline interactions. Ask your child how important are likes, comments and followers to them?
- Ask your child if they edit images or delete content that generated little response? Talk about the pros and cons of this.
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