When it comes to family life one household’s values and norms will almost certainly differ from another. Yet most parents and caregivers have a common aim, to keep their child(ren) safe and happy.
From a very young age, children are taught to assess danger and keep away from harm. Learning to cross the road and avoiding touching hot things are just some of the basics parents and caregivers will instil in their children. School reinforces this so children are repeatedly given a code of conduct that will help to keep them safe.
All of this learning takes place in the real world but what about keeping children safe in the digital world too? Today, children are exposed to many devices in the home environment, such as phones, tablets and games consoles. Whilst they may not yet have a device of their own, most parents will probably relate to a child mimicking their behaviour by scrolling on a device or speaking aloud to a digital assistant to find information. Games consoles are a very popular pastime for children and it is likely they’ve discovered some games that they enjoy playing at home.
If we return to our example of teaching a child to cross the road, this learning occurs over a number of years, with adults taking complete control over this act until they perceive their child to be mature and sensible enough to safely cross the road themselves. It is really no different when we talk about online safety at home. Your child is too young to be let loose on the internet because this is an environment that hasn’t been designed for them and contains content they are not meant to see.
So just as you’d hold their hand to cross the road, their digital exploration requires some hand-holding until they have developed the skills needed to be safe, savvy and kind digital citizens. Schools will be teaching online safety but reinforcement at home is needed throughout their primary-years as well.
Devices such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops should be considered as doorways to the internet and without relevant child locks and privacy settings in place, this means a fairly innocent search could lead your child(ren) to seeing things they cannot unsee and simply do not understand.
Through the primary-years children lack the maturity to deal with unforeseen content and through no fault of their own could be exposed to pornography, online bullying, grooming and in worst cases, online harm.
A preventative measure is to exert control over their screen-time and devices. Setting boundaries when they are young is a great way to set them up to thrive in a digital future, building up a resilience that will help them to make better decisions when online.
Limiting a child’s screen time is a way to set a discipline around device use in the home that provides boundaries and supports their wellbeing. Although limitations are not always popular, the Natterhub Data Report (2021/22) found that 89% of 5-6 year olds agree there should be rules about using devices.
By setting a rule that devices do not go into their bedroom (or at least not overnight) you are gaining some control over their online activity. This rule has the added benefit that your child will be less distracted when trying to sleep. According to Natterhub’s Data Report 46% of 9-10 year olds admit their sleep is affected by technology, so by keeping devices safely in your care, it ensures they cannot go online unseen but also reduces sleep interruptions.
It’s never easy introducing new restrictions but you will benefit from peace of mind, keeping your child’s bedroom as the safe space it should be. If your child has enjoyed a fairly free reign with devices so far, the new rules will need to be explained. It is a good opportunity to have a chat with them about their online experiences and to tell them why you want to check in on them for the time being.
This is not about taking children away from screens - many positive experiences can come from their screen-time - but to find a balance between them and offline activities. For gaming, asking what games they like to play and perhaps even getting involved in playing with them makes the restrictions much easier to bear.
Once your child understands that the limits are being set to help protect them from adult content and potential dangers, implementing a permissions-based rule on device use will help you as a parent to stay involved in their online activity.
Summary: Why you should remove devices from your child’s bedroom
1/ Removes distractions when they are trying to sleep
2/ Keeps them safe from unsupervised access to the internet
3/ Preserves childhood and reduces risk of exposure to non-child friendly content
4/ Gives you peace of mind that their bedroom is always their safe space
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