Seasonal Netiquette: 5 new parenting rules

christmas dinner

The festive season can be a social minefield made all the more complex by an ever-increasing number of digital devices. You may find that rules you set with your children around digital technology will have to slide – especially if you’re part of an extended family gathering. But don’t panic, your child is unlikely to come to any harm from a couple of days of excessive iPad use and most children will accept that holidays and special occasions can have different rules to the rest of the year.

To avoid arguments with relatives around issues such as screen time and access, let the traditional Christmas values of giving and family dictate your digital decisions.

Ann-Marie Corvin lists the top five yuletide ‘netiquette’ rules:

1.    ‘Tis the season to be a thoughtful sharent 

That picture of your little nephew wrapped in tinsel may be adorable – but check before you post on social media. His parents might have a different view on posting images of their children than you do.

Older children may also have their own views on whether they want awkward images of them in ill-fitting Xmas sweaters splashed all over their Facebook wall.

If you are part of a blended family and some of your children are staying with the other parent, also be mindful about posting any family snaps that might make them feel excluded.

2.    The host’s rules apply 

If you are staying with relatives or friends over the holiday period, you may have to relax some of your own rules around screen time and access. If your host’s kids are allowed unlimited access to their iPads, you may have to let your rules slide while you are guests in their home.

It’s also bad form to insist that your hosts apply monitoring and blocking software to their home broadband if it’s not something they want to do.

Likewise, don’t feel guilty if your guests give you disapproving looks because you allow your children more access to devices and technology than they do. Your house; your rules!

If you are concerned about your children accessing inappropriate content while you are away from home, then ensure that you adjust your devices accordingly.

For advice about setting parental controls on your family devices see the Tools section on the online version of the current Digital Parenting magazine. You can click on live weblinks to individual apps and platforms to find out how to set controls. 

3.    iPads for dinner? 

It depends what kind of a meal you all want. If you have young children and want them to sit around an extended family table for long periods of time, you need to be prepared to keep them entertained. If you want to relax and switch off, then it might be that watching Peppa Pig on a tablet is the easiest option for all involved. 

In the spirit of fairness, aim to reach a consensus with other parents and dinner guests at the table first, so that the same rules apply to everyone. 

If you decide that digital technology is off limits for the occasion, then ensure that you come armed with ideas for table games, crayons and stickers, to keep the younger ones entertained. 

4.    Pay attention to the people you are with 

It can be tempting to spend even more time on social media over the Christmas period – posting images of comedy Christmas presents, wobbly trees and woefully undercooked turkeys – but guests could get upset if you are constantly checking devices rather than engaging with them, so save the postings for quieter times when you are alone. And, as an adult, it’s very difficult to tell children to cut down their device use if you’re constantly checking your phone yourself.

5.    Make sure any games and tech gifts you give are age-appropriate:

If you are giving computer games as Christmas presents make sure you check the PEGI ratings, which are explained in full on this Parent Info article.

There is a lot of Virtual Reality gear doing the rounds this Christmas too – be aware that there is an upper age limit of 13 for most headsets – for more details check out Parent Zone’s Parent’s Guide.

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP. 

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