Family Online Safety: A Commonsense Approach to Kids and Tech

June 30, 2020

In the blink of an eye, the way we work, play, learn, and connect went from half-way digital to fully digital. While we’ve all risen to the challenge of physical isolation and online connection, it has brought up issues for many families concerning privacy, safety, and frequency of technology use.

Before COVID-19, kids and teens were spending an average of nine hours a day online. With distance learning and the desire and need to stay connected with their friends, their technology use has skyrocketed (as has all of ours). So, how do you equip them with the knowledge they need to stay safe? What do you need to know and do to evaluate the health of your digital home environment? Here are a few tips from my team at #ICANHELP, a nonprofit focused on teaching kids and teens how to spread positivity online and become good digital citizens.

Set Up Parental Controls

Remember when you were a kid and accidentally made a long-distance call to another country and racked up the phone bill? While annoying and a little pricey, it didn’t put you in any danger. Now with a few clicks and innocent search terms, kids can stumble across inappropriate material and sites that fish for personal information. And unless you’re using parental controls, once kids learn how to spell, the internet is their oyster. When choosing parental control software, look for options that include content controls, blocklists, and time limits to help your kids set boundaries. Here’s a list of some of the top options out there for 2020.

Get Hip, Get Engaged

If you’re not familiar with the apps and games your kids use, you can’t help them when there’s a problem. Plus, if you ignore it, you miss a huge opportunity to bond by sharing their digital media interests. Engage with them and ask what they like to do and then spend time getting familiar with how to use their favorite social media apps. Most people are familiar with YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., but how well do you know TikTok or Reddit? If they’re gamers, brush up on your Call of Duty skills or explore the wilds in Zelda. Any Animal Crossing fans? Weed the island and help them increase their star rating. Chances are, even if they think you’re dorky, they’ll appreciate the effort.

Break Time

I know, you’ve heard this so often it feels like the rundown chorus of that “song of the summer” from the late ‘00s that you wish you could get out of your head. It still bears repeating. Technology and screen time overload is real, so help your kids set realistic goals and limits around their phones, computers, and TVs. Don’t forget to check in with yourself, too. Screen exhaustion is just as real for adults as for kids, and everyone deserves a break from constant stimulation.

If you’d like some additional help and resources, check out our free 1-hour online course, Family Online Safety: A Commonsense Approach to Kids and Tech.

This course is for parents and educators who want to learn about current trends in social media, safety challenges and best practices, and strategies to connect with kids about issues like cyberbullying and privacy.

In this course, you’ll learn how to:

  • Empower kids and teens to delete negativity online and create safer, more inclusive spaces for everyone.

  • Build a knowledge base about the connection between technology use, mental health, and education.

  • Reflect on and evaluate the digital health of home and school environments.

  • Teach kids and teens digital responsibility—not restriction—and build common-sense guidelines for using tech and digital media at home, in school, and with their friends.

Sign up here and learn how to empower your kids through technology while teaching them the skills they need to stay healthy and safe online.

Written by

Kim Karr

Kim Karr taught Physical Education and Leadership at Excelsior Middle School in Byron, California, and was a very active member of the California Association of Directors of Activities. Her enthusiasm for life is infectious to students and adults alike. Kim has been recognized nationally for being an outstanding activities director. Having traveled to over 100 schools in the US and Canada in just the past year, she has inspired thousands of people to join the #ICANHELP movement in choosing to live a more positive life on and offline.