How to Teach Your Child to Conduct Digital Maintenance

January 25, 2016

Here in Northern California winter = rain. Rain means water. And water means debris from the roof flowing into my home's gutters. This means cleaning my gutters twice a year. Smoke detectors. If you have a home you have smoke detectors. Those need battery changes twice a year. Last example - taking out the garbage. That's weekly. And it must get done.

For your child, the challenge is to get them to see that their online life is like owning a home.

Digital Life Requires Digital Maintenance

Digital Maintenance can be broken down into three sections:

1. Security Maintenance: Ensuring passwords are complex and different for different accounts. Turning Location Services OFF. Not posting that you are on vacation camping at Yosemite. Pruning your friends and followers lists twice a year.

2. Content and Data Maintenance: Digital footprint - keeping it positive. Setting visibility of social media content to Friends ONLY. For laptops and mobile, backing up data to Cloud or local media.

3. Device Maintenance: Wiping old phones and tablets. Proper recycling of hardware. Having a plan in place for each device if it is lost or stolen.

How to foster Digital Independence?

For young people's sexual health there is an adage "If you cannot buy condoms, you are not mature enough to have sex."

That is so simple yet comprehensive.

Here are my words for young people's digital health: If you have not bought and configured cloud storage and do not know how to use an external USB hard drive for backups, you are not mature enough to have digital independence.

Here are some tips for helping your child learn the skills they need to be digitally independent:

1. Walk the Walk. Spend a few minutes each day doing your own Digital Maintenance. Easiest place to start is keeping your social media neat and tidy. Or fire off a quick backup of your phone or laptop.

2. Bring your kids in to observe Digital Maintenance. Sit in parallel at a coffee shop. Show them you are Unfriending someone on FB and talk about why. Then Unfriend another based on different criteria. Talk about that too.

3. Tell your kids you need ideas for new passwords. It is even better if you have a poster or large piece of paper between you where you all can write down ideas. Have them first list examples of weak passwords. Talk about why those are weak. Then encourage them to think of passwords they would remember. Mix and match. Of course come up with your own when you set yours.

4. An All-family meet up to independently change all account passwords.

5. Before you take a picture of your kids to post online, ask if it is OK. Their answer might surprise you!

6. Ask your kids for help on your phone. Where to find Location Services and how to toggle that off for pictures, Facebook, Instagram. If they don't know sit in parallel and google it. Figure it out together.

7. Assign one of your kids to choose in secret a day they will monitor the whole family's Screen Time. Have them present to the whole family what they found. Discuss.

8. Sit down with your kids and buy and configure cloud storage. Do the same with an external USB hard drive. Make it a mission in parts. Ensuring the family PC or kid's laptop has USB ports. Then going together to a store or together online to order. Have them chose make, model, color, size. Product in hand, have them take care of it from opening packaging to reading quick user's guide to setup to testing (ALWAYS test your backups) and then disposal of packaging - which is another Teachable Moment about disposal of the backup device itself when the time comes.

We parents have the smarts and ability to make a HUGE impact on our children's Digital Independence. It starts with modeling and then teaching the three sections of Digital Maintenance.


Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Written by

Peter Andrada

Peter Andrada is an IT Manager at FireEye. He has had the opportunity to teach Online Safety to kids, seniors, parents and teachers. He has spoken to over 23,000 students and parents in the past four years. Andrada lives in Northern California with his wife and two children. He enjoys GORUCK team endurance events, combative sports, playing guitar, running, and his family.