I think it’s a fair assessment to say that our world loves technology. We love being able to chat, click, slide, like, video call, and post anything and everything to the world wide web for all to see. It’s a thrill for us to see the number of followers, subscribers, and friends that are connected with us on our social media accounts. Our egos are inflated when we get a response to our videos, posts, or pictures. But along with the attention and hype comes a huge amount of danger. Contrary to popular belief, the internet is not a safe place to be on or a part of, for kids in particular. With all sorts of confusing and dangerous information coming out on social media, parents need to be very involved with what their kids are doing on the internet now more than ever. Here comes the age old question: how do we do that?
1. Create a system of accountability in your home when it comes to technology use. We as parents need to have the passwords for each device in our homes and be able to know exactly what our kids have been looking up online. There are many ways of creating this system. Many antivirus software packages have a parental control system that can be used to access your child’s internet search history as well as put limits on how much time they spend on devices. I also encourage parents to have weekly technology checks (i.e. check your child’s phone, etc.) in order to see who has been texting them, what messages they have been receiving through social media, etc. Now I know that many of you may be thinking, “Isn’t this a little much?” When it comes to the safety of our children, we should be willing to do anything in order to see to our children’s well being.
2. Always, always, always have access to your children’s social media accounts. Notice how the text is in bold print. That is intentional. Many of you may be wondering “But isn’t that a violation of my child’s privacy?” The answer would be no. Privacy is not a right that your child has access to until they turn 18. Until they become a legal adult, everything in terms of technology, social media, down to medical records you, as a parent, have a right to access. This is particularly important when it comes to what your children are doing online. Cyber criminals can access your child’s social media account and send inappropriate messages to them at any time while pretending to be minors. Many kids tend to be fooled into sending personal information or pictures due to being fooled by these messages. As parents, it is essential that you are aware and vigilant of any online friends that your children may be speaking to, and be willing to monitor the conversations that they are having.
3. Have set rules for technology use at home and outside the home. Just like anything else in the home, we need to set limits for our children’s technology use. You can set rules that involve them not contacting unknown numbers, not friending anyone that they don’t know in real life on their social media accounts, not putting pictures of themselves on any social media accounts, etc. It is also important to set rules on how much time that they are allowed on a screen. Many of the devices that are available now have parental controls that can be used to add time or take away time for your children to use or access the device. This teaches our children that using technology of any kind is a huge responsibility and needs to be treated as such.
4. Keep your child’s devices out of their rooms. This tip may sound unrealistic, but it is a very important one. Many times our children tend to stay up late being on their phones or video game stations, which disrupts quality sleep. Also if children have their technology up in their room they are more likely to surf websites that are not appropriate for them to look at. Having a place to store technology at night will help reduce the likelihood of your children not getting quality sleep, and the likelihood of them surfing a website that could potentially be dangerous. It will also help them with understanding that there is a time and a place to have their devices.
5. Reinforce the fact that access to technology is a privilege and not a right. Many times I see the attitude from kids that they have a fundamental right to technology, and this attitude could not be anymore wrong. While it is true that technology is necessary for school nowadays and it is everywhere we go, it doesn’t mean that we can’t live without it. This same statement is true for our children. Our kids need to understand that technology is a privilege and we, as adults and parents, decide when they will have access to it and what they will use it for until they are old enough and responsible enough to handle it for themselves. If you must give your children a phone, a tablet, or some other piece of technology, then it is important for you, as parents, to establish that the device we are giving them comes with a huge amount of responsibility.
Technology can be a very helpful part of our world, but it can also come with a lot of danger. We as parents must be willing to set boundaries with our children when it comes to the internet and technology. It may be difficult at first but it is a necessary action that we have to take. If we allow our children to have unlimited access to the internet and technology, then we risk our children being exposed to things that they are not ready or should be exposed to.