Every parent’s worst fear is that something will happen to their child and they won’t be able to help them when they need it most, which is why honest communication and ongoing involvement is so important.
Yet many parents these days are struggling to keep track of their children’s online activities. They’re in the dark about how much time their children are spending online and how they are using that time. Online gaming, social media, and messaging apps are all a normal part of life for today’s children, and large numbers of parents are looking for guidance on how to manage these interactions. How much screen time is too much? Which apps are safe for my children to use? How can I help my children to navigate and make the most of the online world?
What is A Media Mentor?
A media mentor is like any other mentor, they’re someone who establishes a trusting relationship with a person in need of guidance and support as they learn how to navigate new media. March Media Mentor Month is an initiative intended to help parents negotiate online safety through mentoring their children in their online habits rather than controlling them through restrictions and strong arm threats of discipline . This initiative was developed by Keri-Lee Beasley and Daniel Johnstone and the driving idea behind it is to help parents develop positive relationships with their children around digital technologies. To help achieve this, they have created a March Media Mentor calendar that provides parents and children with daily online activities they can do together throughout the month of March .
The goal is to encourage parents and children to communicate and develop a shared understanding of the online world. This give-and-take style of communication between parents and children helps to nurture a positive parent-child relationship that is based on honesty and trust. This media movement is premised on the belief that effective online education helps children to feel empowered – and when children feel empowered they engage positively. Children who are given a sense of freedom and online agency, combined with ongoing mentorship, are more likely to make informed choices and actively self-regulate .
Who Will Benefit From Engaging With Media Mentor Month?
March Media Mentor Month has been designed specifically for parents who want to keep their children safe online without having to micro-manage them. It is perfect for parents who need some direction about how to connect with their children around technology and it is especially useful for parents who feel that managing screen time in the home has become a source of conflict between them and their children.
The major benefit of participating in March Media Mentor Month is that parents can use the model as much or as little as they like, and for as long as they like. Parents can gain a better understanding of the type of parental approach they currently use to manage screen time and establish new tools and insights to alter their approach as needed. There are three main parental approaches to technology .
- Limiters – parents who focus on minimising access to technology
- Enablers – parents who don’t restrict access at all
- Mentors – parents who actively guide their children in the use of technology
Why Is Limiting Internet Access Not The Best Approach To Online Safety?
Limiting Internet access and screen time may seem like the safest bet for parents, however, research shows that school aged children whose parents limit their Internet access are actually twice as likely to access porn or engage in negative online behaviour such as cyberbullying or general hostility . This type of usage is what parents are afraid of, yet a limiting approach can inadvertently encourage it. In her article ‘Why Parents Shouldn’t Feel Technology Shame’, Alexandra Samuels says:
“Shielding kids from the Internet may work for a time, but once they do get online, limiters’ kids often lack the skills and habits that make for consistent, safe, and successful online interactions .”
How To Transition From Media Police To Media Mentor
March Media Mentor Month can help parents to transition from being limiters or enablers into mentors. Mentoring creates an open line of communication between parents and children and minimises secrecy surrounding screen time. Every parent wants their children to come to them when they have problems, and a mentoring approach to online safety increases the likelihood that children will feel safe enough to do so, even if they have made a mistake or broken a rule .
At Family Insights Group, we too believe in a mentoring relationship between parents and children with regard to Internet safety. Our app has been developed to provide real-time insights into what your child is doing online and for how long they are doing it. This provides parents with the information they need and from there, parents can manage their children’s Internet behaviour as they see fit. As parents, we don’t want our children to be perfect, we just want them to be safe at all times, and when they make a mistake, we want them to feel comfortable reaching out to us.
As part of March Media Mentor Month, we would love to see families engage online with the campaign. Using the hashtag #mediamentormonth we will be able to follow your families progress as you move through the calendar and engage with the activities. All activities and challenges have been developed to be simple and fun. The following are examples that you will see on the calendar as you move through the month :
- Listen to a podcast with your child
- Do a Google search of your name
- Have a conversation with your child using only emojis
These activities are designed to stimulate engagement and conversation between you and your children. Do as much or as little as you wish – but try to do at least one thing to get involved. Share your results on our Facebook page or on our Twitter. The calendar is a perfect guide to help you establish a healthy mentor role for your child and can be used over and over again . Good luck with your mentoring, and have fun!