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March 29, 2020

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Join the digital empowerment for parents discussion

Hardin County schools, local law enforcement, the ministerial association, Quest Federal Credit Union, and Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative

By Mark Light, Hardin County 4-H Educator
A “Digital Empowerment for Parents” event is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12, at Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative, 1210 W. Lima Ave., Kenton.  

As parents and educators, we often think about ways to keep youth safe.  

We make sure children are wearing a seatbelt, don’t go anywhere by themselves, don’t have access to any weapons, and understand the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  

While we do this in an in-person environment, we often don’t do this with youth in online settings. It is easier to talk about other things because we, as parents and educators are the experts.  In our youth, we might have encountered these things ourselves or known others who took the wrong path.

With smartphones and online communication, there is fear due to not being an expert.  Here we might think youth know more than we do.  

We might hand over a smartphone to a teen or allow them to be on social media without much guidance like we do with face to face interactions. Maybe it is that our child helped us set up our phones, or that technology changes daily, but navigating these waters can seem scary. But we are still the adults, and youth still need boundaries. 

Key is to set limits
The key is to set the limits without knowing everything there is to know about smartphones.   

Remember back to your childhood, when we might have been watching too much television or on the computer for too long. Our parents told us to shut them off and do something else. 

So the first step is to create no phone zones.  Maybe that is bedrooms, during the school day, at mealtimes, or other family events. When are there downtimes when youth are without their phones?  

The tricky part about this one is we might have to also abide by screen-free times.  Some families also adopt entire days, like Screen-Free Sunday.  More information about this can be found on www.screenfree.org

Ask for contacts
With social media and texting, you can sit down with your youth regularly and ask them to identify their contacts.  

Do you know all the people on the list?  Have them identify who they are, and if you do not know who they are, then you can block them or delete the contact or profile. 

We would do this with any friends that they were hanging out with that did not have the same family guidelines that we do, so we should also do this online. Would we let them go to someone’s house if their parents are not home?  No.  So, we should also not allow them to be on a social media app that we are not on as well.

Most cellphone companies have limiting software that can be installed that track what access youth have on their phones.  You can also control these on most phones using restrictions or screen time.  

These limit time on their phones and apps. Recently I looked at how much time I was spending on social media myself.  On some days it was about 2 hours.  This was 1/12 of my day or one whole month of my year!  

When I thought that one full month of every year was dedicated to my social media use, I quickly deleted this app on my phone.  Now I have to access that account only on a computer, which makes it harder to get access, so I do it less frequently now.  

To my teen, I put it to her this way:  2 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year equals 730 hours!  If she had spent the same amount of time at a minimum wage job each day, she would have over $6,000!  

Phones and technology will take over our lives if we let them. 

Set guidelines in a positive way
As the adults in the lives of youth, we can set the guidelines of how to use them in positive ways. We can also look for ways to set up vacations that limit the use of technology.  The greatest thing about 4-H camp is the lack of cell service at camp. This helps not only give the youth a 5-day break from their phones but us as well. 

It is easier to set guidelines and limits before we give a child a phone, but we also can set them for our older youth as well. 

To gain a greater understanding of all of this, please consider coming to the “Digital Empowerment for Parents” event on March 12, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative, 1210 W. Lima Ave., Kenton.  

This event is sponsored by Hardin County schools, local law enforcement, the ministerial association, Quest Federal Credit Union, and Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative. This is a free event and talks about current trends, online risks, and empowerment.