As a former teacher and a current internet worker, I often encounter questions from parents on internet exposure for their young children. In as much as they want to regulate internet, how can they do that when their kids simply ignore them? How can a spank-less, more inquisitive child be taught to self-regulate internet? The procedure below is a sample of reinforcement method, also known as operant-conditioning of educating children. I took this from my educational psychology class in college.
I had this experiment on my own 4 year-old daughter Hannah, about playing games in the internet. The first thing I taught my girl since age 1 is how to follow direct orders from mommy. Mommy’s rules are absolute. As parents, we can establish parental authority as early as 1 ½. There are different strategies to do that as each child has his own characteristics. But the most effective strategy that worked in my own daughter is showing her the effects of not following orders. For example, she refused to eat lunch because she is still playing Y8.com. So what I did is I told my household not to spare her any food for that meal (sounds cruel, but it is better than allowing her to skips meals, right?). She got my message right at the moment, so she learned to respect meal times from hereon. It is easier now for me to teach other things; because for her, mommy does not bluff. I refuse to call that “punishment” but it should be “consequences” – her actions always lead into consequences whether good or bad, something that she will carry on in the future.
More than the consequences, the reinforcements should be highlighted. If you want to establish controlled internet exposure to children, then give them better things to do -something they will appreciate. Most parents now days are too busy –making TV and internet the nanny. Allocate more time with them so they will not waste-away playing on Farmville. What I do in the afternoon is to turn my veranda into a noisy playground where they can invite neighborhood children in our home. I don’t mind losing a toy or two, nor having my kids play with sweat-smelling-uhuging batang kalye. I don’t mind them weeding out my plants for their lutu-lutuan, nor drawing murals on my walls. I even buy them big crayons to use as we play school. I give them the experience we used to have as kids sans Facebook; the mess, noise and all. I am proud to say that Hannah can cook eggs, pancakes and hotdogs because I let her cook with me in my kitchen too. Children in general are more appreciative in simple things . Genuine time and interest with your children establishes your loving relationship with them.
Once I had established my positive relationship with Hannah, it is now time to see the results of my experiment. I taught Hannah how to properly open and shut-down our computer unit as well as to observe the time. I gave her 1 hour of play in the before lunch and a bonus of another hour -only after she takes the afternoon nap. No nap, no bonus. I set an alarm clock on the desktop to remind her of her internet time with notifications every 15mins. At four years old, she was able to grasp the whole process in 2 days (after the tantrums and debates) –shutting the browsers and computer all by herself and thanking me for the bonus I gave her. This gave me a relief that the plan actually worked.
But beyond following orders is that, it is comforting to know that my kid respected and loved mommy and daddy wholeheartedly. As my kids grow up, more complicated the rules and procedures has to be laid down. It is a challenge for all of us to accomplish these moral, spiritual and social obligations as parents; the best way is to understand & learn from these children on how to do a good job.
Maribeth Oliver is a home-based micro-entrepreneur, writer and a mom. She shares her insights about family life, internet use and home-based career opportunities. Visit her site at http://maribetholiver.com