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‘Finding a balance for your family in a changing digital landscape’

Almudena Lara is the global lead on child safety policy at Google. She joined Google from the NSPCC, where she led their work to influence the debate on online safety and issues such as access to mental health care for children. She shares her thoughts on how families can strike the right balance online through healthy digital habits.

‘Finding a balance for your family in a changing digital landscape’
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In paid partnership with Google

When it comes to the internet, parents want their children to be safe and confident explorers of the digital world. However, it is normal for parents to sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to the ever-changing digital landscape.

I know this feeling first-hand. As both a parent, and the global lead on child safety policy at Google, I am very aware of the challenges modern families face when it comes to finding a healthier balance online.

Especially in this new normal, the internet and our devices continue to play an even bigger part in our family lives. More than half of parents of four- to 15-year-olds say their child or children spend more time online since the first lockdown. While many say technology has a positive impact on the time they spend together as a family, some parents remain unsure about what boundaries to set.

That uncertainty is understandable. Technology is, by its very nature, a rapidly changing field. Which means that sometimes we have to accept that — for all our efforts as parents — our children are more likely to pick things up quicker than we do.

The good news is that there are a vast number of digital tools available to help parents guide their children’s experience online. Every child is different, so you can determine what unique digital ground rules are right for your family.

Here are some tips to help families strike a healthier balance online.

Quality screen time: There’s a growing body of research that shows that it isn’t necessarily the quantity of time spent online that matters — but the quality of that time. If a child is using the internet to learn algebra or build an art project, that’s great! However, scrolling mindlessly for hours instead of playing outside might not be the best use of screentime. Free apps like Google Family Link can let you view and manage your child’s app activity and set limits on screen time — so you can put boundaries around bedtime and playtime.

Online safety skills: While most children have very positive experiences online, they need to be equipped with the right tools to become more informed and engaged online citizens. The Google Be Internet Legends is a powerful, multifaceted program that helps children better understand the digital world and make informed choices about its risks. Apart from a robust curriculum available in more than 70 per cent of UK primary schools, parents can also play the animated Interland game with their children to help them learn about internet safety in a fun and interactive way.

Transparent conversations: I am a huge proponent of parents taking an active interest in what their child is up to online — just as they would with their offline activities. This way, when you set your digital ground rules, you can have authentic conversations and debates around how they would impact your child’s online behaviours. For example, if your child is under 13 and needs to use the main YouTube app for school activities set by a teacher, rather than YouTube Kids, YouTube Supervised Experiences can provide them with a broader online video universe, while providing you peace of mind through its extra wellbeing protections and limited features.

With these tools, children can exercise their autonomy, while parents find the right balance for them online. We hope that tools like these can give parents the confidence — and the support — they need to help build healthy digital habits in their family.

That way life is a little easier for you. And lots more fun for them.

Almudena Lara

Find out more about Be Internet Legends and play the Interland game here.