Technology has become ubiquitous in our lives. We use it for work, to communicate, to connect with others, and to be entertained. The units are getting smaller, more portable and more accessible. My son’s iPad finds its way into his hands as often as possible. One minute we are having a conversation, the next that darn iPad or iTouch is the most engaging thing in his life. It happens in a second. So what are parents to do?
The first thing to remember is that the use of technology is not a right, rather it is a privilege. I highly suggest making that a mantra. Say it to yourself often. Know that those tech units are there to be used by us, not to control us – especially not our kids! There are too many pitfalls!
12 Must Do’s To Keep Your Children Safe on Technology
1. Give them access to social media judiciously. Only let your children get social media accounts that are age appropriate. Don’t just let them create accounts because their friends are. Ask yourself: “Are my kids ready for this type of engagement with others and technology?”
2. Become technology literate yourself. You need to know about social media sites, gaming sites, etc… so that you can support your child’s healthy use. The top ones for kids: texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest, + Twitter. There are more. They keep changing too. If your kids have accounts on these social media channels you should too!
3. Educate your kids about appropriate internet/social media engagement. Create a contract or have a detailed discussion about what is appropriate behavior online. They need to understand that what they say on social media/internet is public and visible. You bet employers and colleges are getting on social media to see what perspective students/employees are, or have been, doing online.
4. Keep the computer in a common area. This is especially true for younger children, but if possible try to keep all technology use in a common area where you can keep an eye on their use.
5. Educate your children about internet/social media issues. The big ones are cyber-bullying, sexting, identity theft, and even pornography. If your children are online they are likely exposed to some of these issues – or they will be soon. These are so important to discuss before they experience them. Remind them it is essential they talk with you if they see/experience any of these internet/social media issues.
6. Have ALL login info for ALL your children’s accounts. I cannot say this strongly enough. They must give you all login information and let you know when something changes. Internet/social media accounts are not a given, rather they are a privilege.
7. Monitor your children’s internet/social media use/accounts on a regular basis. Don’t just have an account on all social media channels that your kids are on. Monitor it very regularly. “Friend” and “Like” and “Comment” and “Engage” with your children and your children’s friends. And ask other parents to do the same. It takes a village!
8. Bookmark your child’s favorite sites. For younger kids and older ones, work together with them to find their top sites and bookmark them. It seems simple, but then they are not constantly entering the names and possibly going to an unintended site.
9. Spend time together online. Just spend some time together online. You will get a sense of how they engage online and it’s just great to do something together. If you don’t know about social media sites ask them to give you a tour and show you how they are used. Let them be your teacher – very empowering!
10. Be aware and stay involved. Notice if your child’s mood is changing when they get online. If they removing themselves from the family to get online or feeling an urgency to get online as soon as they have access. This is where being engaged yourself is priceless!
11. Have a common area where you power technology – not your children’s bedrooms! This seems simple, but your kids need a break from technology. Identify a time they turn in their technology units and have power cords in a common area.
12. Make a technology contract. This can be a document you put together and then discuss with your whole family. How much time is it okay to spend online? What are the behavior expectations? How to handle login info. And so much more. About a year ago a mom created a contract for the iPhone she gave her son and it went viral. The iPhone Contract – This offers a great framework for creating your own a contract!
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