1. Engage with your child in what they are watching and listening. Foster curiosity from a young age by posing the ‘pondering’ questions to your child: “that’s interesting… I wonder why it does that?” “Do you think that is true?” “I wonder if there is another explanation for that?” etc
2.Family meals create a forum where healthy conversation can flourish. Use your (TV free) meal times to let family members share about their day. As children mature, the time can be well spent discussing a topical issue encouraging thoughtful debate and discussion.
3.Screen/filter internet, TV, gaming. We won’t be able to do this forever, but we have a responsibility to protect the developing minds of our young children from influences that will permanently disable their ability to relate to the world in a healthy manner. It is critical that we prevent premature exposure to sexual and violent content when children are still learning how to differentiate between reality and fantasy.
4.Set limits. And stick to them! If not restrained, children will happily spend all day gaming or watching TV. Set simple rules (eg no TV until after dinner and homework) and apply consequences when they are breached.
5.Encourage reading. Not only does reading foster imagination and creativity, it remains a crucial skill for accessing a wide range of perspectives on any given topic. Reading by its nature will foster the critical literacy necessary for our children to develop into thinking, intelligent adults.
6.Be vigilant. Stay informed about current issues that are impacting your children. You won’t be able to engage your teenagers in conversation and debate if you don’t know the significant features in the landscape of their lives.
7.Be the example. Nothing will erode your child’s respect for you faster than hypocrisy. If you want your teenagers to take you seriously, be self disciplined about how much and what digital material you digest.
8.Provide alternative entertainment. Too many people end up watching mind-numbing TV reruns through simple boredom and laziness. Though it takes more effort to organise a family board game or footy match than to flick the switch on the TV, it will pay dividends in the long run.
9.Friends of a feather. Be discerning about your children’s friends. While they will increasingly assert their independence in choosing with whom they associate, you can still be influential well into their late teens. Make an effort to know your teenagers’ friends; encourage them to bring their friends home and engage them all in conversation. Teenagers need a place to meet and socialise. If parents fail to provide safe meeting places, be assured, someone or something else will fill it and it almost certainly won’t be a healthier outcome.
10.Pray! The battle for the minds of our youth is no trivial matter. Prayer is essential in building virtue and character in our children. In the words of St Paul: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but … against the powers of this dark world. Eph 6:10-12