Keeping our kids safe with technology, new devices and the online world must be a conscious set of practises, teaching and monitoring relying on boundaries, time limits and rules of use, beahviour and etiquette. Many kids will be receiving a brand new device this Christmas, and straight away be ready to swipe, tap, comment, update, upload, search, send, publish, create, communicate and interact.
Here is a list of my Top 10 things we need to do as parents to help make the technology and the online world a safe environment for our kids.
1. Setting devices up safely: Particularly relevant for young kids who will stumble across unnecessary and inappropriate content. whatever device or network you are on, be sure to find out the simple ways you can set them up safely. Click here for my post on setting up Safari safely in seconds.
2. Protect your devices from damage: With so many young kids getting devices at a much younger age, we need to make sure the expensive little toys are physically safe from damage. We cannot afford to keep replacing cracked screens or devices that fall from pockets in to the toilets! There are lots of good covers, some of them waterproof to help minimise the damage. Here is a review of the Tech 21 covers which are some of the most effective one I have come across.
3. Keep track of kids spending on their phones and devices. Make sure you have a plan that is suitable for your childs needs. Prepaid plans are good. Be careful of low monthly fee contracts with low data useage as the fees skyrocket should your little darling watch one too many youtube videos from their phone when they thought they were logged in to the home wifi!! If they do have a data limit make sure you and they get in to the habit of checking regularly! (whilst this may not be directly related to their safety, if you could see the bills some parents get you would know it is just better for everyones safety all round to keep it under control!)
4. Get an app to find the device: There are many apps out there such as Find Your Phone which tell you the location of your phone at any given time. I use Life360 to keep track of my family members too. It is a little peace of mind knowing that they have made it to destinations without having to ring and check all the time.
5. Communicate often and in a way that doesn’t lecture but rather discusses the issues kids are facing online. If they are on social networking sites, discuss possible pitfalls. Look at what other people put up online and talk to your kids about the implications. Talk about content, context, about the inability to hear tone of voice, to misinterpret things and about giving away too much information. I have an internet contract available or a letter from Santa to help bring up some of the important points for discussion.
6. Monitor your kids usage and interactions to help teach them the skills to be responsible online. Access to passwords whilst kids are young helps you see who they are’ ‘friending’ and the sorts of things they are doing. Make use of all the teachable moments that come up during this time of monitoring, bringing to their attention mistakes they and others make and discuss other ways they could have behaved or engaged online.
7. Encourage downtime, time limits and pursuits away form the screens. Primary school kids, even with BYOD programs will never have enough homework that needs to keep them online all night! Make sure that they respond to your limits and boundaries and have plenty of time doing other activities that require exercise, real life interaction and relaxation without the stimulation of screens.
8. Keep up to date with the sorts of things kids are doing online and with the technology. They will not come to you if they think you don’t understand or are so far removed from their world. There are plenty of resources out there so be sure to seek out the knowledge as well as play around yourself so you have a greater understanding.
9. Interact and enjoy the technology with your kids. Whilst it is great sometimes to use it to keep a child happy whilst you are on the phone, at a cafe etc, remember the importance of the interactive element of devices. There are so many great apps out there to play age appropriate games with your kids that help encourage kids faith in your ability to use the technology as well as being a great way to connect with each other.
10. Look for the positive and get creative. There are great ways to use the technology to expand their imaginations and creativity. Try not to focus on the negative aspects or the pitfalls all the time. Rather encourage creativity, make movies, play with photos and editing and look for all the positive ways the devices can be incorporated into your lives.
These are steps that must for the most part be done in conjunction with each other, must be ongoing, changing and adapting to suit your childs level of usage, understanding and responsibility.
If your child has a new device or if their school is part of the BYOD program, remember that as parents we must play a major role in ensuring our kids stay safe online. Teach, guide, support, communicate and enjoy!