In this high-tech day and age, it seems as though babies come out of the womb already knowing how to use technology. YouTube videos of toddlers masterfully working iPads, kids tapping TV screens assuming they are touchscreen and the intuitive nature in which kids navigate tech, are just a few indications that our digital kids are different from every other generation.
Kids are growing up with screens and it’s hard to stop the fascination they have. And who can blame them? Tech can be colorful, musical, responsive, educational and very entertaining. It can also be frustrating, scary and can expose them to things way beyond their time. So the question begs, how do you know what kind of technology is appropriate for your kids, regardless of their ages?
It’s intimidating to think about your child exploring tech on his/her own, but there are several things you can do to help ease the transition – for both of you.
Well, as with most things, it gets a little more complex they older they get. When they are toddlers and preschoolers, you can pretty much rest assured that the electronic toys and tablets geared towards their age ranges are very safe. If there is any kind of Internet access available, there are solid parental controls and very controlled app stores where only approved content is available for download.
The issues arise when kids are ready to graduate to new tech and become owners of their own real smartphones and tablets (or even your hand-me-down tech). It’s intimidating to think about your child exploring tech on his/her own, but there are several things you can do to help ease the transition – for both of you.
1. Have the Conversation
This digital age has required parents to create a new “talk” about what it means to be a responsible online citizen. With cyberbullying, oversharing, sexting running rampant, it’s very important, from an early age, to drill into your kids that whatever they do online can be tracked, and whatever they say online can stay with them forever.
2. Have a Contract
As part of this conversation, have a family contract that dictates open communication around tech usage. The Family Online Safety Contract
is a good example of guidelines to follow when kids become more independent with technology.
3. Use Parental Controls
There are lots of monitoring tools out there to help manage everything from cell phone to Internet usage. Net Nanny
, Minor Monitor
, My Mobile Watchdog
and so many others that can help you keep an eye on their online behavior.
4. Set Usage Restrictions
Regardless of age, no kid should have an all access pass to technology. There should be agreed upon ground rules about how long kids can be using technology every day, and where they can use them. To start, no tech at the dinner table is one that everyone in the family should abide by.
5. Educate Yourself
It’s hard to keep up with all the latest apps that your kids are using, especially since new ones are coming out every day. But as much as possible, read popular tech sites like Mashable
to keep an eye on social trends so you have a sense for what your kids are exposed to.
6. Have Faith
Finally, with many aspects of parenting, sometimes you have to have faith. You can’t be monitoring every minute of their online existence, but as long as you trust your child and have open communication about tech usage, you have to let them explore their autonomy as well.
The amount of technology that is present in our kids’ lives will only increase as our society becomes even more connected. While there is a lot to navigate when it comes to digital parenting, educating yourself – and your kids – will ensure they get a healthy start for any technology they encounter. Now and in the future.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.