When our children are young, we work hard to set up structure and rules to keep them safe. We set limits on their screen time, install only child-friendly apps on devices they access, and monitor their internet usage closely. As they get older, however, it is important they learn how to do some of those things themselves! Let’s talk about why self-regulation is so important, and how to help your child learn how to self-regulate their internet use.
Why self-regulation is an important life skill
Self-regulation is a modern evolution of the biblical meaning for “self-control,” which is one of the fruits of the spirit. It allows people to make their own choices, set goals and work toward them, and monitor and manage emotions. It also involves being able to make conscious choices about things like how we spend our time. Although young children often need an adult to help them regulate their time, emotions, and other daily things, older children and teenagers should be taught how to self-regulate before they are old enough to get jobs, go off to college, or move out.
How to teach your child the basics of self-regulation
One important way to teach your child self-regulation is to teach them about delayed gratification, or making small sacrifices now in favor of a larger goal. For example, with internet use, it may seem fun to sit and watch videos for hours immediately after school, but that would mean low grades on unfinished homework and less time for fun the next day. Therefore, it would be better to watch a video or two and then dive into their homework.
Once you have discussed it, give them the chance to practice in a safe environment. For example, you may allow them the opportunity to play on the computer before their homework is done on Friday night, but tell them that if it is not done by Saturday morning then they cannot watch cartoons until it is finished. They have the opportunity to choose: instant gratification, or a better option? These types of safe, small opportunities to practice with you there to coach them will help them learn the basics. Keep an open line of communication with them about what they are choosing and how it makes them feel!
What self-regulated internet use looks like
A child or teen who can successfully self-regulate their internet use will:
- Be able to accomplish all other tasks without an external restriction on their internet use
- Understand when to get offline to avoid headaches or bad moods
- Consciously choose whether they would rather be on the internet or do something else
- Still regularly participate in non-internet activities, such as outdoor play, family time, and visiting friends
- Require little supervision and monitoring because they know what is healthy for them
Now, you are prepared to begin teaching your child how to self-regulate their internet use. Go equip your child with this valuable skill!