Be mindful of screen time
Understanding the impacts of Digital Overuse is the first step to setting healthy digital screen time limits for you and your kids. Read our guide to understand the impact of digital overuse.

We have no example or benchmark in our current day and age, for how to manage a potentially more dangerous challenge to our children’s health. Even when the signs are as obvious as sunburn or a sugar rush. A child that is aggressive or “flipping out” after gaming, is easy to spot, but some of the consequences of our children’s digital diets may be revealed in subtle mood swings, and gradual behavioural changes including low enthusiasm, minimal interpersonal engagement and depression. These changes may be difficult to gauge when we, as parents, have an unbalanced digital diet ourselves.
We have prepared a quick reference guide on the impacts of digital over-use on various age groups. Use it to gauge where you could tighten your parental control, and to explain to your children why they need to be conscious of their digital use.

Download the Screen time Guidelines

There is science supporting the need for the development of good digital discipline.
In fact in a long term study it has been found that self-control is twice the predictor for emotional, relational and financial stability than is Intelligence. The science is quite simple: Dopamine is hormone in the brain which is involved in motivation and rewards. The adolescent brain lowers dopamine levels in the brain to bring about boredom and encourage risk taking to ensure development of social, emotional and physical skills needed to survive as an adult.
Smartphones provide instant dopamine hits which satiates boredom and results in missed opportunities.
Meaning your children don’t develop the skills they will need as an adult.  
Create a family digital alliance
Setting Digital use limits and consequences is essential to teaching good Digital Family Habits in your home.

Quality family time is essential to building trust in your family. Your children will at some stage come across inappropriate content online, and when they do it is essential that you as their parents are the first place they come to for support.
Negotiating a digital family alliance will help set up a family dynamic which will ensure they come to you, and don’t get lost online.

When it comes to screen use in the home we like Anya Kamenetz’s perspective:
“Enjoy screens, not too much, and mostly with other people”

Helping your children understand your expectations and their reasonability when it comes to their device use is much easier when we proactively create structure for them to follow as opposed to reacting to bad digital decisions they may end up making.
A digital family alliance can create these expectations and responsibilities in your family.
If kids don’t know where the line in the sand is, they will have real trouble in navigating their way through the digital world.
An alliance is an important symbol.
It is not a one-time solution and you will need to constantly update your Digital family alliance in response to changes in technology and your children’s development.

At Be in Touch, we believe that open communication is the best long-term solution to the digital dilemmas facing families today. Strict regulation of time and content might work in the short term, but often results in children searching for loopholes or hiding their digital behaviour. This sets up the next problem – when they are exposed to inappropriate or disturbing material, they can’t ask for the support and guidance they need. So – how to combine both approaches into the best combination, designed by your family, that will work for your family?
This checklist will take you through the basics of how to create a Digital Family Alliance with the inputs from your whole family.

Read through the Digital Family Alliance Guidelines first. Download the BiT Digital Family Alliance Guideline 
Download the Digital Family Alliance for your family to sign BiT Digital Family Alliance
Download an editable Digital Family Alliance for you to customise for your own family editable Digital Family Alliance
Model good digital habits
We know that children are more likely to do what we do, as opposed to do what we say.
Modelling good digital habits is a great way to help your children to understand the need for them to think twice before they use their own devices.

Here are three practical tips to help you start being more conscious about how and when you use your device:
  1. Delay your choice of entertainment App use
  2. Schedule your entertainment App use
  3. Schedule focus time – put your phone on silent, turn off notifications, set a timer, finish the tasks you need to get done first.
Set an example for your kids: tell them what you are doing on your phone so they learn to understand the difference between productive tech use and pure entertainment.
Install Parental Controls
As parents, we are never off duty, but keeping tabs on your kids is an overwhelming job. In today’s world, parental controls are something we need to consider, to protect our families from digital exposure that can have far reaching impacts on their psyches. We believe that parental controls go hand in hand with teaching your kids good digital habits and how to use and interact with technology responsibly.

From filtering out violence, pornography, suicide, cyberbullying, grooming or giving you the ability to geotrack your kids in the interests of their safety, there are parental controls to suit different families and pockets.

They fall into roughly four categories:
  1. Content filters (which limit access to age inappropriate content)
  2. Usage controls (which constrain the usage of these devices such as placing time-limits on usage or forbidding certain types of usage)
  3. Computer usage management tools (which enforces the use of certain software),
  4. Monitoring (which can track location and activity when using the devices, as well as usage of key words).

Check out our review of parental controls, to see which one would work best for your family.
Understand age restrictions
Our team have reviewed the most common Apps that teenagers are likely to view. Know what Apps are out there and what the recommended age restrictions are.

View full review PDF APPs that Teens like
View overview PDF Overview of APPs

Change device / app / game settings
The default settings of your family’s devices (phones, computers, gaming consoles), as well as every app or game you download, determine the level of privacy and safety of the device. These settings that suit the manufacturers may or may not protect you, so you need to check and choose what you want in place.

If you do just one thing today as a family, put out a call for all devices to be brought to dinner tonight and click on the settings icons of each device, and then on each app or game installed on each device, and change the settings to your liking. Remember that you’ll have to keep settings in mind whenever you download a new app or game! Firstly, on your devices:

  • Turn off location services to prevent apps from tracking your location. If a particular app (such as Google Maps) requires your location, you can then accept individually for that particular app.
  • Turn off access to microphone and camera. Again, you can turn this on for a particular app that need this.
  • Install Anti-virus / do scans.
  • Don't let apps share your data – that would include any information, photos, videos or contacts stored on your device. The answer should always be NO.
  • Enable privacy and safety settings on any app or game you or your kids download (sede the guide below).
  • Be aware and careful when using your Facebook, Instagram or Google username and password to log in to a site – make sure that you are not allowing that app or site to access information from your profile.

Whilst App and game developers might release their products onto App stores with a 13 age restriction, there is no certification body that checks whether this is appropriate. We’ve put together a quick reference guide on the real age restrictions of popular Apps and games CLICK FOR GUIDE

Remember that each App or game that is installed on a device, has it’s OWN default privacy and safety setting, so setting them for the device alone is not enough. Here is a handy guide, with quick links to how to change the settings for the most popular Apps and games that your kids might be keen on, to ensure that they are safer for use.

Know passwords and check devices
Parents have no problem setting guidelines for what their kids are eating, how much they are sleeping, whether they are doing their homework and who they spend time with.

Somehow parents find it difficult to set rules for digital use.
Kids give their parents an illusion of maturity as they have exposure to s
o many current events and topical points of interest, but biologically they do not have the neurological development to manage their own digital use.

Parents NEED to set the right digital boundaries appropriate to the level of neurological development of their children.

As your child becomes a teenager this regulation needs to be relaxed as they prove their ability to self-manage their device use. Younger than 13 though, you child needs you to help them set digital limits.

Movies and games are overseen by independent certification bodies. There are so many Apps being created and released every day, that developers often set age restrictions for Apps themselves.

Parents need to check what Apps their kids are downloading and engage with them about their online world. As our children’s lives become more and more integrated with online products, parents need to get involved in their online lives and get curious about what children are doing online.
Join your kid’s online world
Navigating the line between respecting your child’s increasing desire for privacy and making sure they are not in need of support, is a delicate balancing act. However, as parents, our primary concern must be the prioritisation of our children’s emotional and physical safety. There can be no right to privacy when nothing we do online is private!

Teen speak is constantly evolving, but we’ve drawn up handy reference guides to help you decipher the digital language of acronyms, which we hope will give you more insight into your children’s online lives, and help you decide whether they need support, or just a little space.

As always, respecting your child’s private space is essential, though safety is more important than privacy when it comes to parenting in the digital age, use the downloadable guides on emojis and emoticons to help you if you feel your child needs support.

Download the Teen speak acronym guide
Download the Teen Emoji Guide
Download the Teen Emoticon Guide
Project 107
Sexual Offences: Pornography and children

In April of this year, the South African Law Reform Commission released a discussion paper on pornography in the media and how it impacts children. This paper proposes both logical and important legal revisions, which will create a safer space for children as they face mounting digital exposure due to the ease of access to inappropriate material.

Be in Touch, in partnership with Dial a Nerd, submitted commentary on the discussion paper, and we will keep you up to speed on further
Download the Be in Touch / Dial a Nerd commentary (2 pages)
Download the Law Reform Commissions Discussion Paper (430 pages)