Improve Your Relationship with Your Daughter – Here are Four Ways to Better Communication

Improve Your Relationship with Your Daughter – Here are Four Ways to Better Communication

By K. Parker 

I had a difficult time talking to my dad when I was younger. Like so many other dads, my dad struggled with words, though he tried to make up for that with his actions.

A strong foundation for a father/daughter relationship begins with caring. My dad and I definitely had that going for us, but because the building blocks of a father/daughter relationship roll right into the kind of dating relationships and marriage a girl might have, you need more than just unspoken loyalties. The following are ideas to help dads to truly connect: 

Four Tips to Help Dads Connect with Their Daughters:

  1. Communicate your love clearly

Much of the time, my dad showed his love through the activities I was interested in. I’m a singer and musician, and my dad has always been my biggest supporter. He made me feel like I was talented and special, he’d even find shows on TV— singing competitions and the like where we’d sit and analyze the techniques and such. All of this pushed me to follow my heart and grow my talents more than I would’ve on my own. But what I didn’t understand and what a lot of kids don’t always understand is that, without words, the meaning gets lost— especially when it’s hidden behind a love language they may not share with their dad.

  • Dads, say “I love you” frequently
  • Tell her you’re proud of her often
  • Listen to what she has to say and keep that line of communication open 
  1. Apologize frequently when in conflict

A couple things I learned from my dad are the things he isn’t able to do well. He has a bad temper and it is hard for him to admit when he’s wrong. These are things that I learned I didn’t want in a husband, and I ended up marrying a man who does not have a short fuse.

Of course mistakes happen, and tempers always flare when it comes to kids testing your patience, so make sure to be quick to apologize if you were in the wrong. If you want your kids to learn how to say they’re sorry, then be that example. 

  • Be quick to apologize before giving your reasons for your actions
  • Admit when you’ve made a mistake and own up to it
  1. How to talk to a teenage girl about puberty 

My dad really had a hard time communicating his actual feelings. It was difficult watching him struggle with his temper and yell at things when they didn’t work properly. Or how he couldn’t be serious and give a genuine apology when it made him feel awkward, and he’d try to joke it off instead of just straight up saying sorry. All of this made having personal conversations practically impossible— especially during the teenage/puberty years. 

Don’t make your daughter feel awkward by being too distant in your everyday communication so when she grows up and her body changes, you can talk to her about more personal things. Girls often feel uncomfortable and scared at those natural changes in their bodies. 

  • Reassure her in these changes and help her feel beautiful, and help remind her that it’s her intelligence and kindness that matter the most
  • Don’t stop hugging her, she will notice
  • Treat periods as the natural process they are. If you act uncomfortable about them, then she will feel they are something to be ashamed of
  1. Support her interests 

When I began dating, I didn’t have anything specific in mind as to what kind of guy I was looking for. I didn’t really have a type other than someone I clicked with. Thinking about it now, I can see that many of the traits I found I enjoyed— someone kind who I can share interests with— my dad has too. He likes sharing interests, he’s a fun person who likes to make people laugh with his stories, and he is a genuinely kind man. The man I married is all those things as well. We enjoy many similar interests and support each other in those interests. He likes making people feel welcome and at ease in our home. He’s kind, as well as goofy. 

Be excited for your girl beyond just going to events and such. Get involved and make her feel special and proud of her talents, and show that those talents matter to you. 

  • Learn about her interests, be it sports, dance, a TV show or book series, etc. so you can engage in a genuine conversation with her about it
  • Listen when she talks about those interests
  • Tell her you’re proud of the hard work she puts into improving her talents and skills

The relationships you create with your children are something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. I’m grateful for the good people my mom and dad are, and that I’ve learned so much from them. They’ve both taught me the different kinds of ways to love another person. 

Along with that, I’m glad I’ve been able to get to know my dad as I’ve grown up, and I can more easily understand where he was coming from. I can see that he was communicating his love to me all along, it was just harder to see when I was younger and more self-centered. Help your kids see a little clearer when they’re young. Even if you feel like you keep making mistakes, keep trying.

For more advice on how to communicate effectively and build strong, healthy relationships with your kids, check out our books 30 Days to a Stronger Child and Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age

Parker is a writer and editor for Educate and Empower Kids, and a graduate from Brigham Young University-Idaho in Professional Studies in English. She is excitedly pursuing a career in copy editing as she grows her little family. 

6 Strategies To Help Your Child Develop A Healthier Relationship With Screens

6 Strategies To Help Your Child Develop A Healthier Relationship With Screens

By George Newton

Electronic devices and screen time are a common aspect of daily life. As with most things, screen time in moderation can be beneficial. Since screens are likely going to continue to be a significant part of our kids’ lives, we as parents need to perfect our strategies to help combat the detrimental parts of having such constant exposure. To help create those strategies, here are six tips that you can use to help your children develop a healthier relationship with screens.

1. Set Daily Limits

Yvonne Bennett, a journalist at Brit Student  says, “Establish a clear daily limit and make sure that you are consistent and stick to it.” It’s hard to find the balance of how much time your kids should spend on screens, and it can oftentimes be even harder to stay consistent with such rules. But these kinds of restrictions are crucial to helping our kids learn how to engage with the world around them in a meaningful and healthy way. Being absorbed in screens only restricts that growth and makes it harder in the future. 

Help your kids transition from being on screens to getting off. Giving kids a clear time limit, and prior warnings (about 5-10 minutes before it’s time to get off) will help that transition go a little easier and will hopefully minimize any tantrums that might occur. Getting your kids their own individual devices might help to reduce fighting between siblings in the short-term, but having them take turns instead can help with moderating the time they spend on screens as well. Set a timer for how long each kid has, and make sure they stick to that to create a fair and controlled screen time experience. Having your kids take turns will also help them practice the basic principles of sharing with others.

Bennett also suggests, “Another way to track children’s screen time is to use an app. Many of the apps available also allow parents to set daily limits, meaning that once your child has reached it, the device turns off or no longer provides internet access.” This will help to further solidify that screen time is limited, and will help kids to branch out and find other means of entertaining themselves, which is very healthy for their growing imaginations.

2. Create No-Screen Zones

Having multiple places within your home that are strictly no-screen zones is not only beneficial, but it is also crucial for kids to learn how to balance their activities and relationships. Designate specific areas or zones in your home to be no-screen areas. For example, this could be bedrooms or the dinner table. You could also set up a desktop computer for the kids to take turns using in a communal living space where the screen time can be monitored more easily. This will also come in handy during schoolwork hours since you will be able to ensure that they don’t drift into playing games online.

Along with no-screen zones, create no-screen times such as during meal times or at bedtime. You might even plan to have one day out of the week with no-screens, which will continue to help kids learn how to engage their imagination and find alternative ways of entertaining themselves. Overall, it’s important to be consistent with these rules and to follow them yourself. 

3. Watch Things Together

Not only is it important to share fun activities with your kids, but parents who are aware of what content their children are consuming online are in a better position to provide kids with important and more specific information about online safety. Engaging with your kids while they’re using the electronic devices also provides an opportunity to connect and find those common interests.  

“Instead of just letting your child watch a video or program alone, sit and watch it with them. If you have young children, watch high-quality shows with them and be actively involved, reinforcing educational content and sharing the experience together. You even extend these interests into non-screen time, through imaginative play or storytelling,” says Paul Marson, an educator at Origin Writings.

Watching stuff together can also reinforce specified screen times. Make it exciting to watch together, and show that you’re eager to see what happens next, so when you need to step away to accomplish other tasks, the kids know that you’ll continue watching later, and they can look forward to it. This also helps them practice patience.

4. Discuss What Content Your Kids Are Consuming

It’s important to talk to kids of all ages about online safety and the dangers they might come across. Even with younger kids, it pays to be mindful of what they’re watching or listening to, including adverts or auto play videos. To avoid inappropriate content, it’s important to ensure that you have active parental controls or filters installed on all the devices your kids use. 

Along with filtering controls, have open conversations with your kids about the content they’re watching, what to do if they come across inappropriate content, or if someone is making them feel uncomfortable online. Similarly, many children also experience bullying on social media platforms, so encourage your kids to regularly talk to you about their online life as well. Set yourself up as approachable and understanding of their interests, and your kids will feel more willing to open up and come to you when they do come across these kinds of content.

5. Video Calls

Video calls are a great example of how screens can be used to connect with people and strengthen bonds. However, it’s also important that we teach our kids about what is and isn’t appropriate to share on a video. Talk to your kids and encourage them to consider their behaviour and the potential consequences of sharing inappropriate or explicit images or content when talking to their friends or family online.

Having these discussions  will also let them know what kinds of things to look out for if someone tries to show them inappropriate images or discuss with them inappropriate topics. Make sure to have that open communication with them where they can come to you if they come across something inappropriate or someone behaving this way.

6. Be A Good Example

Children learn so much from watching what the adults around them do, especially their parents. If we want our kids to develop a healthy relationship with their screen use, then we have to start by evaluating our own screen use. Lead by example and model healthy habits when it comes to screens. 

  • Create and maintain no-screen zones in your home
  • Limit your own screen time
  • Avoid using your phone or tablet during family time or dinner time
  • Plan quality family time outside the house
  • Prioritize one-on-one time with your kids

Kids definitely see when effort is made to connect with them and have meaningful conversations. Screens really are one of the most major distractions from creating those crucial bonds, both in kids and parents alike. Make your kids feel important by setting that example of prioritizing relationships over distractions.

In order to help children develop a healthy relationship to screens, reassess your own behaviour and begin by being a positive role model. Have ongoing, open conversations about your kids’ use of and interaction with screens and ways to stay safe. By creating an open atmosphere in which you clearly and consistently share your logic for screen usage and behaviours, the more likely your child will be to respect these and be willing to follow them.

For more ideas on how to approach these discussions and build important guidelines with your kids, check out our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Discussions for the Digital Age.

George J. Newton is an experienced business development manager at Write my research paper and PhD Kingdom. He also regularly writes for Cheap coursework. George has been married for ten years and enjoys spending his spare time playing video games with his family.

How Dads Can Prepare to Discuss Pornography with Their Daughters

How Dads Can Prepare to Discuss Pornography with Their Daughters

By Balint Horvath

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

When you think of your daughter, you might think of the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme. “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice.” As a father, the last thing on your mind is that one day you’ll have to talk to your daughter about pornography. 

Today’s article discusses a very sensitive subject, but as a father raising a precious little girl in a very different world, I feel it’s necessary to give this topic its due diligence.  Let’s look at why it’s important to have these discussions and how exactly we should go about them. 

Why Is it Important to Speak to Your Daughter About Pornography?

Children today are becoming exposed to the internet at much younger ages. With the many devices and constant exposure to screen time, it’s only a matter of time before your daughter is exposed to something unsavory on the internet. 

Not only is nothing private or sacred anymore, but our culture has become increasingly hypersexualized. Social media, internet chat rooms, and social applications are only a few examples of where your daughter could be exposed to pornography. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps if you ban the internet in your home you can minimize the risk. However, that train of thought will do more harm than good. Remember that almost every child has a smartphone and an internet connection these days. 

There’s a very powerful quote by Doug Flanders that reads, “No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.” It reminds me of the countless hours I spent baby-proofing cabinets and drawers when my daughter was a baby. While I wish I could run out into the world and remove all the bad things from her path, I know that I can’t. But I can do the next best thing, which is to prepare her to deal with those bad things. 

Create a Foundation of Trust with Your Daughter

The first step in discussing pornography with your daughter is by creating a foundation of trust. Healthy teamwork in sports requires trust, just like in the case of a family. This process begins as early as the toddler days. Engage in conversations with your little one about topics that include their bodies, which areas are considered private and why, what consent is, and general health and well-being. 

You aren’t going to be too graphic with your three-year-old, but this is when and how you’ll want to start the conversation. As your daughter grows up, the conversation will continue to grow based on what you’ve already taught her. As she grows older she won’t be as hesitant to ask questions because she feels comfortable discussing such topics with you. 

Let Your Daughter Ask Questions!

Encourage your daughter to ask questions about pornography and related topics. Remember that this topic should be in the form of a conversation between you and your daughter with two-way dialogue back and forth. There should always be room for questions, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable they might make you feel. Approach it as part of a general discussion about women’s bodies, necessary boundaries, healthy relationships with herself and others, and what a healthy body image is. Ideally, you and your partner should both have these types of conversations with your daughter on an ongoing basis.

If there are any questions she asks that you don’t have the answers to, table the question for a later time and do research into the topic to help her learn safely and accurately. It’s important to find the relevant answer and provide her feedback, all the while making her feel her questions matter to you. This builds on the trust relationship that you need to build with her.

Keep Your Tone Approachable and Casual

Avoid having a stern or overly anxious tone when discussing pornography or any other sex-related topic. A stern tone might make her feel uncomfortable or as if she has asked something wrong. These sorts of interactions will scare her and will shut off any future opportunity for such a conversation between you. 

Discuss the Importance of Consent

From an early age, it’s important to teach your daughter about boundaries and personal space. It’s important to establish that no always means no. Regardless of the situation, no should always mean no. This should apply not only to her own personal boundaries, but when she associates with others as well.

Mistakes to Avoi

Since pornography isn’t on the list of top topics we want to discuss with our daughters, we might often try and avoid the conversation altogether. Or at the very least, postpone it as long as we can. This is the opposite of what you want to do.

I’ve listed a few of the more common mistakes parents should avoid when talking to daughters about pornography:

  • Not Talking About Pornography At All: Ask yourself the following question: Do you want your daughter receiving accurate, concise information from you or from strangers, other kids, or the internet? Engaging in the conversation will help you control the type of information she receives. Don’t avoid the topic! 
  • Not Preparing Before Discussing Pornography with Your Daughter: Discussing such a sensitive and controversial topic shouldn’t be done from one minute to the next. Firstly, you and your partner need to discuss what you define as acceptable and what you find offensive. You need to establish common ground. Both parents need to have the same answers and standpoints. Having different opinions on the subject will be confusing. Research your approach and practice the way you would answer certain questions so that you aren’t caught off guard. 
  • Not Listening to Your Daughter’s Thoughts About Pornography: As I’ve mentioned before, encourage questions. It’s important to specify that no topic is off-limits. Make a point of finding the answers to questions you might not have the answers to. It’s okay for you to not know everything!
  • Not Monitoring Internet Use: Monitor your daughter’s internet usage. There are a lot of questionable topics and websites that are only a click away. Monitor social media accounts, chats and the use of applications. Ensure they are age-appropriate. 
  • Not Discussing What Healthy Relationships Are with Your Daughter: You need to constantly have conversations with your daughter about body image, body shaming, and the aspects of healthy relationships between people. Discuss what is acceptable and what isn’t. Help her establish her own self-worth. 

Final Thoughts 

When you discuss pornography with your daughter, approach the topic as you would any other topic. Allow for questions and answer as scientifically and accurately as possible. There’s no need to sugarcoat the topic. Always remember that your information could safeguard your daughter as she gets older. 

Every time you feel like you want to avoid the topic, remind yourself that if you don’t discuss it with her, a stranger might. Approach the subject as part of a much broader topic. Start a conversation about body image, boundaries, and healthy relationships. Once you start the conversation it’ll become easier to build on it. Empower your daughter and “world-proof” her against the world!

For more information on communicating successfully with your child on a number of difficult topics, check out How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and  Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age. Available on Amazon.

Balint Horvath is the founder of Projectfather. He’s a first-time father and when his daughter doesn’t occupy him, he is a productivity coach. He started the site to share his lessons learned, research he has made along his journey. His Mission Is to help Dads in A-Z of Fatherhood.

Simple Ways to Protect Your Child from Common Abuse in the Digital Age

Simple Ways to Protect Your Child from Common Abuse in the Digital Age

35-year-old math teacher Brian Robeson initially began meeting privately with 14-year-old student Anna under the guise of mentorship. Soon after, he hosted private lunches with Anna in his classroom during school. Then he kissed her on her forehead during a school field trip. Finally he turned to email, using the platform to keep in contact with Anna 24/7. Her parents had no idea (Dejka, 2019).

The rise of the internet, smartphones and tablets, and hundreds of apps have created a dangerous situation for the children using these platforms. Without the direct supervision of a parent, children can find themselves interacting online with people they don’t know or worse, people like Brian Robeson who are looking to take advantage of the ease of online communication platforms. It’s critical for parents to understand that it is usually NOT a stranger in the shadows talking with their child online; most often, it is an adult they interact with in their daily life looking for an easy way to isolate and manipulate their victim. 

According to Darkness to Light, nearly 90% of child abuse victims know their abuser. This staggering statistic forces parents to rethink who exactly is the greatest risk to their child online. And while apps like Kik and Whisper can connect children with thousands of strangers, it is also a possibility that an abuser who already knows the child will use online portals to have direct contact with their victim. This direct and unsupervised contact also enables institutional abusers to take advantage of public trust, like the churches and schools that employ them, while still creating abusive relationships with children online. By moving the manipulation online, abusers are able to maintain trust with the victim’s family and other adults in their life by seemingly behaving appropriately in the real world. 

This reality can seem overwhelming, but there are ways parents can be active abuse prevention partners in their child’s internet experience. The best defense is keeping your kids off smartphones and social media until they are in their last one to two years of high school. Yes, all your friends are giving their kids smartphones sooner, but we have yet to hear of ANY parent who is glad they gave their child a smartphone or access to social media when they did. EVERY parent we have ever talked to, all over the country wishes they had waited!

But if you are not able to do this, you must gain a thorough understanding of the internet and it’s specific codes and acronyms. This can help parents quickly identify potentially dangerous individuals communicating with their children. Once you have an understanding of what the online world looks like for your child, it’s incredibly important to establish an open dialogue concerning internet safety. Honest and specific conversations about who your child is allowed to contact, what kind of communication they’re allowed to have, and what to do if your child comes across something like nudity or other explicit content online, is the foundation of a healthy online experience. 

In addition to educating yourself and creating an honest dialogue, the following are simple steps parents can take to respectfully monitor their child’s online presence

  • Place the computer or gaming system in a common area where their use can be easily monitored
  • Use monitoring apps like Circle Go to see where and how much time your child is spending on social media apps, certain games, and other online activities
  • Spend time with your child online and see who they really are online
  • Talk to your kids often about online dangers 
  • Listen carefully and respectfully to what your child says about their online habits—even if they seem unimportant—so your child will feel comfortable bringing up potentially serious issues with you 

The internet age and all of its offshoots can often make parents feel like they are fighting a losing battle. However, the risks of letting your child have free reign over their online world requires active, informed parent involvement. This involvement doesn’t have to be a chore as finding fun, interactive things to do online is totally possible for both parents and children. Plus, any excuse to develop a foundation of honest communication between you and your child is a positive experience and building block of a successful parent/child relationship. 

For more information on communicating successfully with your child, check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age on Amazon. If you are looking for information about taking with your child about sexuality, check out 30 Days of Sex Talks, Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy (available for 3 age groups: 3-7, 8-11, and 12+).  

Citations: 

(2020, February 06). Child sexual abuse statistics. Darkness to Light: End Child Sexual Abuse. https://www.d2l.org/child-sexual-abuse/statistics/

Dejka, J., Nitcher, E. (2019, December 18). Emails, hugs, promises: Teen victim describes how OPS teacher groomed her for sexual abuse. Omaha World-Herald. https://omaha.com/news/education/emails-hugs-promises-teen-victim-describes-how-ops-teacher-groomed-her-for-sexual-abuse/article_0137a540-e2c0-59ae-b370-6c2a134e1649.html

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2021

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2021

By K. Parker and Melody Bergman

As parents in the digital age, keeping our kids safe on technology is just part of the job description. But with so many screens, games, apps, and devices right at their fingertips, how is an exhausted parent supposed to keep up?! We’ve got you covered! 

Each year, we compile a list of the most dangerous apps that families need to watch out for. Here are a few of those posts: 

13 Apps Every Parent Should Know in 2020

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2019

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2018

This year, we are focusing on just a few apps—but they are by far the most dangerous apps for children and teens! They are prime locations for bullying, sexually predatory behavior, sexting, and grooming. They are the popular social media apps we use every day.

WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA APPS?

Are you surprised? Not what you expected? It’s a little discomforting knowing that the greatest dangers to our children are found in common apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and others, where both kids and adults are spending so much time. Many of us don’t even realize how entrenched our lives are in these platforms. Especially during these years of pandemic with so much of our lives being moved online, social media has become a bigger part of our lives than it has ever been in the past. 

Much to our chagrin, social distancing has resulted in our kids being glued to their screens through social media, gaming, and entertainment of all sorts. As parents, we need to know what kind of an effect this is having on our children. Is it dangerous? Is it damaging? These are things we want to know!

The answer is: Yes! Spending so much time on technology CAN increase the likelihood that our kids will be exposed to danger. Many of these dangers are external dangers—threats that target children purposefully. But there are also internal dangers, like those they may encounter through social media exposure. Many of these internal dangers are based on the hyper-fixation that sucks in our children in the first place, gluing them to their screens. People of all ages struggle with this, not just children.But when it comes to media addiction, it’s better to be aware earlier rather than later. Then we’re better equipped to fight against it. 

LOSING TOUCH WITH REALITY

As an example of how dangerous these internal dangers can be, I will briefly share an experience I went through when I was younger. I made friends with a girl online through shared interest in a television show. She was merely sixteen years old, and she was so deep into her hyper-fixation on her media image and presence that when she didn’t receive the attention she’d been expecting, she became depressed to the point of wanting to take her own life. When she came to me with her struggles, my advice to her was to delete her Twitter account, get off her Discord servers, stop looking at social media apps, and talk to her parents and other people who were physically present in her life. She felt so alone because she felt the people on the internet didn’t care about her, and she didn’t believe she could find that same joy and care from her own personal life. 

For kids in this generation, it can be tempting to let their digital reality become their whole world. This can be very dangerous. When their entire focus begins revolving around the attention, feedback, and popularity gained through a media following, it tends to erase the importance of reality and their own personal life and connections. As parents, it is crucial that we stay connected with our children and that we are able to recognize the signs if they are losing touch and disconnecting from reality. We ALL need to keep a healthy balance between digital interactions and true human connections. Not just kids—parents too! .

CREATING OPEN COMMUNICATION

When our children don’t know what’s out there, and how dangerous it can be, the risk is so much greater. Family rules and filters are a good start, but they aren’t enough on their own. We also need clear communication about the dangers out there, and how damaging they can be. 

Our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age is a great tool to help. When we have open conversations and our kids understand the reasons behind the rules, we have much safer families. Children and teens prepared to see warning signs and stay away from them of their own accord are so much safer than curious children pushing against the rules because they want to know what’s out there. Here are some guidelines to help get you talking:

  • Start early to create close bonds with your kids, both teaching and learning how to communicate openly. (If you have older kids, don’t worry. You haven’t missed your window. Just start now!)
  • Set boundaries and explain the reasons for those boundaries.
  • Explain the importance having a firm grasp of their reality has on their mental health, Help them understand that what they see and how they are viewed by others online isn’t everything. 
  • Talk about bullying and what to do if your child comes across it, whether your child is the victim or the perpetrator, or if your child witnesses someone else being bullied.
  • Have a frank discussion about grooming and sexual predators with your children. Teach them the warning signs, and tell them to inform you if they are being contacted in an inappropriate way.

Keeping our kids safe and happy in a digital world is no easy task. But with a little vigilance and open communication, we can handle it! In the end, our efforts will help immeasurably in the mental and physical wellbeing of our children. 

K. Parker is an editor and writer for Educate and Empower Kids, and is currently studying at Brigham Young University – Idaho to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She is working towards a career in copyediting.

Melody Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three boys, Marketing Director at HPi Certified Training Academy, co-creator of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast by Parents Aware, and former coalition coordinator for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and 20 years in the field as a writer and editor. In her spare time, she teaches martial arts and self-defense at Defend Yourself Virginia. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect kids. Follow Melody’s adventures on her blog at Mama Crossroads.

Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Smartphones: Taking the Smart out of Smartphones

Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Smartphones: Taking the Smart out of Smartphones

By: Fiona Leikness

As parents, one of our biggest concerns is knowing where our kids are at any given time. We want to make sure they’re safe, and that we can reach them in case of emergency! We may think the solution lies in giving our child a phone, but then we’re left grappling with the idea of direct access to the internet and social media. How do we protect them from the dangers of online predators, exposure to graphic content, and pornography?

Thankfully, the solution is very simple. A few companies have heard the outcry from parents regarding screen-addiction, social media, pornography, and access to the internet, and have taken on the challenge of providing affordable, minimalistic alternatives to smartphones.

Think Smarter, Not Harder

Some of the biggest concerns over giving children their first phones revolve around games, social media, and access to the internet. Parents aren’t immune to the addictive qualities of smartphones either. How often have we found ourselves glued to a game or scrolling through our news feeds for hours? We hear that notification ding and immediately we want to check it! But we’re also aware of the salacious content that can and does lurk within social media and the internet. So what do we do? Here are a few ideas:

Gabb Wireless

Gabb Wireless offers a smartphone free of app stores, an internet browser, and social media. However, their phones still maintain that smartphone look so that your children don’t have to feel left out or “behind” amongst their peers.

  • Basic front/rear camera
  • GPS tracking
  • Bluetooth capable
  • Built-in music app
  • Radio functionality
  • Call/messaging capable
  • No web browser
  • No app store

The Light Phone

The Light Phone II takes smartphones back to the bare-bone basics. Light Phone caters to all crowds with the idea of helping users free themselves from the constant scrolling and usage that haunts most smartphone users. What’s unique about this phone is that it also advertises an E-Ink screen (made popular by e-readers like Kindle), eliminating problems that arise from blue light on standard smartphone screens.

  • Call/messaging capable
  • Alarms
  • E-Ink screen
  • No web browser
  • No app store
  • No camera
  • Does not support images
  • Optional calculator and podcast tools

Look Ma, No Hands!

Now, smartphone alternatives may seem handy and all, but what if your child is prone to losing items? Maybe you are reluctant to give your child a phone at all? Well, worry not! With smartwatch technology constantly improving, parents now have access to kid-friendly options for smartwatches that allow you to stay in touch and to know the location of your child at all times.

Timex

Currently my favorite option, Timex offers a variety of smartwatches for the whole family, including a child friendly version that’s perfect for even the youngest kids. Parents can even customize the watch’s functionality according to their desires.

  • GPS-tracking
  • Call/messaging capable (approved contacts only)
  • SOS alert button (alerts predesignated contact/s)
  • Durable
  • No internet access
  • Simple games (can be set or removed by parents)
  • Customizable task/reward option
  • Step tracker

Verizon Gizmo Watch

Verizon’s GizmoWatch is very similar to the Timex smartwatch when it comes to features, but would most likely be better suited to children 10 and up based on design. However, this watch does boast greater customization capabilities so that your child can really make this watch his/her own.

  • Long-life battery
  • GPS tracking
  • Call/messaging capable (approved contacts only)
  • Fitness counter
  • Can set scheduled reminders
  • Waterproof 
  • No internet access

Whether you decide to give your child a standard smartphone, a restricted phone, or a kid-friendly smartwatch, it is comforting to know that we, as parents, have so many options available to us when it comes to keeping our children safe. These smartphones and smartwatches allow us to offer our children a little more freedom in their lives while still protecting them from the dangers of the digital age.

For more information, be sure to check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age, available on Amazon! Still want more? Then be sure to read Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, also available on Amazon.

Fiona Leikness is an editor for Educate and Empower Kids and student at BYU-I. She is currently studying English with an emphasis on creative writing and editing.

“Is My Brain Really Getting Mushy?” Technology’s Influence on Our Kids

“Is My Brain Really Getting Mushy?” Technology’s Influence on Our Kids

By Toni Van Orman and Fiona Leikness

“Stop asking!” If you have children, I am sure this is something you have exclaimed over and over when they asked you one too many times why they couldn’t keep playing on the tablet, keep watching movies, or keep playing games. I am sure you can even picture the tantrums that happened when you told them their time was up. Well, if you have, you are not alone. One Australian survey that spoke with 1000 parents found that roughly 58% of parents reported having “seen their children have a tantrum of some degree when they insisted on limiting their use of technology.” If you have not experienced any of this behavior, count yourself as one of the lucky few. 

Tantrum-throwing and whining used to be a common, tiring occurrence in my home. At one point I decided I was done, and questioned if this battle was worth fighting. A parent can only take so much. Right? Honestly, the idea of giving into my children’s thirst for technology was tempting. It would be so easy. In fact, it didn’t take much to imagine the peace and quiet that I could soon be experiencing if I just gave in. However, I wasn’t quite ready to give up. I decided I needed to look at the data. I began by doing a little research. You wouldn’t believe what I found!  

Food for Thought

The overuse of technology is something that has become so prevalent in our current culture that even some of our kids are concerned that they are spending too much time on technology. With such ease of access to the internet through smartphones, laptops, and tablets, it would be hard to imagine how kids wouldn’t become dependent on technology. One study, conducted by David Smahel, Michelle F. Wright, and Martina Cernikova, took the time to interview a large pool of children from several countries. The goal of the study was to find out what negative effects the use of technology has on your average kid- not just kids deemed “addicted” to technology. Many of the kids interviewed reported eyestrain and headaches from even just one hour spent in front of a computer. Other kids reported feeling tired from spending similar amounts of time on the computer, which was noted to be possibly linked with a child’s performance in school.

This same study also noted that kids who encountered harmful, violent, and/or graphic content online reported having nightmares and difficulty sleeping as a result of these nightmares. Many of the kids mentioned how these images would stick in their minds long after they had clicked away from the image or video. I couldn’t help but wonder if my own kids had had similar experiences.

Going further, another study published in Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that engaging in online activities before and during bedtime could interfere with childrens’ and teens’ sleep quality and duration. It was also noted that this reduced quality of sleep could lead to negative emotional responses in children and teens. 

This data helped me decide that this battle with technology was absolutely worth fighting. With these studies to help me better understand that my concerns were warranted, I was more committed than ever to deal with the whining and tantrums. The message was clear.

Our Kids Need Help!

At this point, I decided it was time to get a little creative; I wanted to be able to share with my kids why I cared about limiting their technology use in a way that they could understand. I felt that it was important that they understood why I insisted on these boundaries with technology. My goal was to help educate them as much as it was to protect them.

After some contemplation, I came up with a solution that would not only help my children understand what it is that I learned from the studies, but would also act as a wonderful, ongoing reminder.

That week, I brought home a small tomato plant. With my kids gathered up, I set the plant down next to another empty pot full of soil. I showed them how all plants, like this tomato plant, benefitted from regular watering. I then watered the little tomato plant. I then pulled up the empty pot full of soil and explained that, even though water can be good for a plant, too much can make the plant sick. I then drowned the empty pot with water until the soil was drenched, mushy mud. 

“Our brains are the same way,” I explained. If we’re careful, we can use technology to help us learn and grow, but use too much, and we could end up doing more harm than good. From then on, we placed the little tomato plant in a place where we could watch it and care for it. Each time one of my kids would water the plant, they were reminded of how too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Now, whenever my children ask, “Mom, why can’t I have more time on the tablet?” I reply, “Because your brains are getting mushy!” Do they still complain? Absolutely. But the complaining and whining is much less than before. Just the other day, my youngest son brought me the tablet and said, “Mom, my brain needs a break. It is getting mushy.” 

Since then, I have found other ways to be proactive about my children’s technology use. Here are four ideas that have worked for my family: 

  1. Set family internet and technology guidelines together with your kids. By setting guidelines as a family, parents are able to teach kids about how they can navigate the internet safely. 
  2. Use parental controls to manage what your kids have access to and to set time limits on devices. Using the parental controls on your Wi-Fi router is a great way to manage all the devices in your home. 
  3. Stay informed about new technology, games, and apps. If you want to protect and educate your children, you have to be informed. Two of my favorite resources include Common Sense Media and Educate and Empower Kids
  4. Create a list of things your kids can do instead of spending time on technology. This has been a great reference for me when my kids tell me how bored they are.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of setting greater limitations on your kids’ tablets, phones, or computers, don’t give up hope. Get creative! Help your children understand why they should care just as much as you do about how technology can affect them. Take the time to educate your children in a way that they can understand, and continue to be proactive about protecting your children.  

For more information, be sure to check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age, available on Amazon! Still want more? Then be sure to read Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, also available on Amazon.

Toni Van Orman is a student at BYU-Idaho and will graduate with a degree in Marriage and Family Studies in December 2020.  She has been married to her husband, Jared, for over 15 years, and they have four children. As a military spouse living far from family, Toni has learned the important role that families play in the lives of all individuals. Toni is always looking for ways to help military families stay strong and connected. 

Fiona Leikness is an editor for Educate and Empower Kids and student at BYU-I. She is currently studying English with an emphasis on creative writing and editing.

Lesson: Uplifting Others Online and Everywhere

Lesson: Uplifting Others Online and Everywhere

Speech, media, and famous characters are frequently negative or critical of themselves and others. In this digital age, it’s all too easy to be rude, negative, and/or fake online. Unfortunately, this bleeds into our real-life interactions. It’s easy to be fake and to hide behind a facade, or to mimic the harsh interactions portrayed in media. We don’t always know what other people are going through; we should strive to make their lives easier rather than more difficult. We can do that through honest and sincere compliments.

The objectives of this lesson are:

  • Discuss why compliments and other sincere, positive speech, online and face-to-face, are important.
  • Discuss the differences between what media and pop culture say or do versus what actually makes people feel good about themselves.
  • Help your child understand that every text, email, post, or message can affect others in positive or negative ways.

Download the Lesson Here!

Our book 30 Days to A Stronger Child provides even more helpful information, lessons, and ideas to help your children develop into their best possible selves.

If you are looking for more information about digital citizenship and using tech for good check out our children’s books Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good.