Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Nov. 24, 2015

6 Steps To Complete Before and After a Device Purchase

Founder, Safety Net of PA, LLC

The holidays are coming and if this year is like most others, technology-based items, including cell phones and tablets will be very popular.  To get the most out of the gift, here are some tips for you and your family, both before and after you make the purchase:

  1. Do your own homework and start shopping early.
  2. Make sure that it works.
  3. Adjust the privacy settings
  4. Consider using a protecting service
  5. Set rules
  6. Get involved

Before Purchasing A Device 

Start the process by doing your own homework.  Figure out how the device will be used and what specifications the device will need to have.  Most likely, surfing the internet will be a necessity, but how will it accomplish that?  Can the device access your home’s WiFi, for example?

Consider what they will need to get done with the device, how much it will cost and how that will affect your holiday shopping budget.  Start shopping early, at least window shopping, to see what a reasonable price is for the kind of device you are most likely to purchase.  Then, when you see a good price, you will know it and feel good about the purchase.

What To Do After the Purchase 

Once you get the device, make sure that it works.  It could be defective.  It might need batteries or to have the battery charged.  Either way, you don’t want your child to be disappointed if they try to use it and it’s not ready for immediate use.  If necessary, register the device.  For younger children, use your own email address if the device requires one.  That way, any news alerts come to you. 

Once you have the device working, check all of the privacy/filter settings.  That means looking at any inherent settings that can be used to protect the child.  For example, if you are buying a Windows based system and you want to prevent them from visiting specific sites, watch this video to see how it’s done.  Most, if not all search engines, have settings or filters that can help prevent inappropriate content from coming back in search results.  The same should be done for any social media sites that a child will be using.  Of course, in order to do that, you will need to sign onto their accounts, as that is not machine specific, it is account specific.

Another feature to consider is one of the many online protective software.  Two of the most popular are Net Nanny and Cyber Patrol.  Either of these can protect your family for about $40 per year.  One thing I definitely recommend is to not enter credit card information into a device, especially for a tablet or other device that is being given to a young child.  Doing that not only opens your credit card information open to hackers, it can also result in exorbitant charges being made.  Just recently, Kanye West protested pretty loudly when his two year old daughter was not able to exercise restraint and repeatedly 

Set rules for how the device should be used.  That includes how often they can use the device and any limitations for sites/apps that should or should not be used.  For our own daughter, who is ten years old, she can only use the laptop or tablet downstairs, where we can see what she is doing on it. 

Be Prepared To Provide Supervision 

Recently, Kanye West was very upset with app publishers because his two year old daughter was not able to exercise restraint and did quite a few in-app purchases.  He should not be giving a new iPad to a two year daughter without supervision.  

Of course, this probably means that he entered credit card information into the tablet.  Since it’s unreasonable to expect a toddler to exercise restraint, he should not have entered his credit card information into the tablet in the first place.  Another option would have been to buy gift cards for the Apple Store and enter that information into the iPad.  When the money on the card was done, the child could not have made by more in-app purchases until an adult entered another gift card into the device.

Finally, get involved and stay involved in their online activities.  Giving a child a device does not end the parent’s responsibilities.  The legal age for kids to use most social media sites is 13 because of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as COPPA.  That does not mean that every child that is 13 years or older should be using social media.  It will be up to the parents to determine what level, if any, is appropriate and to monitor the situation for any changes.

Too often, I see kids who are given a tablet or cell phone with little or no oversight.  When my daughter was in basketball a few years ago, it was very common to see siblings playing on devices the entire time, with no parental interaction.

Takeaway

By following these steps, parents should have an easier time making the purchase decision and have a safer, more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.