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What Parents need to know about their Children’s Technology

With children using mobile devices at much younger ages, parents need to get savvy to monitor their child’s online activities.

Technology has opened up many exciting avenues for us and new opportunities for children, allowing them to develop skills that they can carry on into their adult lives. But like many new systems, it also brings with it a set of challenges. For parents, keeping up with the pace of new technology can be a challenge in itself – let alone monitoring their children’s activities.

It used to be a lot simpler back in the days when family-shared PCs were the main method of getting online. The standard advice was to have the family PC somewhere accessible but public, such as the living room, where parents could easily check in on what sites children were visiting and restrict access if necessary.

However, with the increased affordability of laptops and an era where mobile devices are increasingly popular, it’s not always as simple. According to GlobalWebIndex, the average person now has 4 or more internet-connected devices, ranging from smartphones and tablets to smart TVs. That’s a lot of devices to keep track of and, if required, to install filtering technologies.

A decade ago, the idea of giving a 10-year-old a mobile phone would have provoked horror from many. Now, the average child gets their first mobile phone by age 8 [1], with many parents citing safety concerns as their reason for buying the devices. In most cases the benefits of cell phones far outweigh the cons, however it can be nearly impossible for parents to know what their children are accessing since these devices are used daily by their child with limited supervision.

As a parent I have developed a list of helpful tricks I have come up with over the years to ensure my child safely uses their devices:

 

MAKE GUIDELINES

One approach parents can take is to set guidelines on acceptable use of technology by imposing limits on usage time. For example, setting aside times when the use of mobile devices is banned, such as at the dinner table or before school. That means the adults in the family may have to curb their own device usage, setting a good example, but it reinforces the importance of quality family time.

 

TAKE PRECAUTIONS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

Although services such as Facebook and Twitter have terms of use that include a minimum age for users of 13, these age restrictions are largely ignored by both children and parents alike.

The 13-year-old limit has more to do with data protection issues than a belief that it represents a turning point for children in maturity.

There is no magic age at which your child will suddenly become mature enough to deal with social media and the pressures it can bring. Like many other technologies, it will all be down to the individual child and their maturity level. That is something that is best left for parents to judge.

If you do allow your child to have an account on social media, regardless of their age, there are some recommendations that should be implemented.

Take advantage of the built-in privacy settings and protections by doing the following:

  • Make your child’s account private; only accessible to friends
  • Only add people you, the parent, know

 

KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST APPS

New apps are developed everyday and it’s only a matter of time before the next one goes viral and your child is using it. Years ago Facebook and Twitter were the leaders in the social media market. But now younger children are being drawn to Snapchat and Instagram.

Snapchat is an image messaging and multimedia mobile application where photos and messages are only available for a short period of time, 10 seconds or less, before they “disappear”. Many parents have shown their concerns with this application as it suggests to children that their images are private and will disappear, going against the most important rules of technology – (1) Nothing is private (2) Nothing gets deleted from the internet [2]. Understanding how these applications work and how children are using them is imperative for your child’s internet safety.

For parents who want to head some of these issues off at the pass, there are ways to restrict content on mobile devices. Both Android and iOS have parental restrictions available as part of the core operating system, allowing parents to switch off functions such as the ability to install apps or to access the web browser.

But while the temptation to clamp down completely on your child may be great, resist the urge. It’s important to have conversations about technology with your children so they understand the risks and make smart decisions.  Allowing them some space and showing them you do trust them will pay off in the long run.

 

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