As you navigate raising your kids into the new era we live in and the fact that an 8 year old will be exposed to the vastness of the online world, this question comes up and have been asked to me: How do I protect my child from the online world? The short answer, you can’t. But bear with me as I try to answer this question.
A few things you want to take into account: (1) It should never be a punishment, because you want to build your child’s confidence in you and asking for “respect” or “demanding authority” over your child is one of the most unhealthy relationships you can create with your child. (2) It should never feel like a deprivation, because everything that we are deprived from, we tend to want it more and compensate in different ways and you push your child to misuse your trust. (3) It should never be a fight. I’m sure all your children’s friends are on the internet, so it is basically a losing battle. And if you choose to fight this battle, the question to ask yourself is: what am I compensating and which themes of mine are active as I fight with my children… rather than the topic on hand.
So, what’s the best thing you could possibly do? There are a number of things, chronologically: (1) build a trustworthy loving relationship: Building a trustworthy relationship built on mutual respect is essential for you, and your child’s wellbeing. Consulting your child, asking what they would like to eat, drink, where would they like to go, how would they like to spend their free time. By doing that, you give them the space for their character to develop, to mature and to evolve. You allow them to explore their preferences, their likes and their dislikes. (2) build up boundaries: As a parent, you have to keep some boundaries with your children, yet, not too much. Ask yourself, what is important to my child’s well-being? And from there write them down. Have agreements with your child and give them these agreements and hold them accountable. (3) Naturally, with the first two steps, you will have built two things (1) your child’s self esteem and (2) a trusting relationship with your child built on love and respect.
I believe that is what your child will need in this world: Self esteem and a loving and respecting home. Self esteem will ensure that they feel confident with who they are, what they want and don’t want, they won’t get drawn to unhealthy trends, habits and viral influencers they see online, and if they doubt, they will come to you and with your love and tenderness you will give them that advice. But for them to come to you, you should have had prepared them for this by building this trustworthy, respectful and loving relationship with them.
If the world collapses on them one day, they can come back to you and ask for help rather than falling into whatever darkness they might (and will) encounter online in their lifetime.