The lightning speed with which technology is evolving makes it near impossible for parents to keep up with their tech-savvy kids. It’s a constant battle to stay informed of what technology is safe and age-appropriate, but with open communication and a little research, parents can empower their kids to become educated, thoughtful tech consumers.How to Know What Technology Your Kids Use
The first step in keeping up with your tween’s online activities is having an accurate picture of where your kid spends time on the web. As kids become more autonomous in their use of technology, though, it becomes hard to vet the content of every site they visit or app they download.
Here are some strategies to stay informed of the tech your kids are using:
- Start the conversation! As your kids begin to use computers, tablets, and phones, it’s important to open the lines of communication about when, why, and how they can access the internet. Agreeing on things like time usage limits and appropriate websites in advance will set your kid up to be an informed, conscientious web consumer.
- Search safely. Installing a safe search browser is key to make sure kids aren’t exposed to inappropriate content, unintentionally or otherwise. If you use Chrome, you can enable their SafeSearch feature to block explicit or adult images. However, SafeSearch isn’t 100% accurate, so you may want to install a kid-friendly browser for younger kids to use instead.
- App awareness. If your tween has their own smartphone, it’s a good idea for you to use Family Sharing through iCloud. Then enable Ask to Buy for your kids devices, which means you’ll have to approve every app and in-app purchase your child wants to download, so you serve as the gatekeeper for everything your kid can access. Many apps include an age range in their descriptions, so that’s a good place to start when it comes to determining if an app is appropriate.
Important Tech Topics to Talk About Together
It can be difficult to toe the line between monitoring your kids’ online activities and snooping. If you’re ready to give your kids more autonomy when it comes to using technology, make sure you’ve had conversations about these important topics first.
- Cyberbullying: Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they or someone they know is experiencing cyberbullying. Let them know that there won’t be any consequences to reporting it to you– they may not come to you if they think they’ll lose their technology privileges. StopBullying.gov has a great resource for kids to learn about cyberbullying and how they can help prevent it.
- Privacy: Talk with your kids about what information is appropriate to share online and what’s not. You could make a list of “Yes” and “No” items to leave by the computer as a helpful reminder. “Yes” items could include posts about good grades and fun photos with friends, while the no column should include personal info like your address, phone number, and “check-ins” (their current physical location).
- Online Reputation Management: This one may seem like it’s only important for job-seekers, but it’s crucial to empower your kids to manage their online reputation from an early age. Emphasize that their online persona is closest thing to a “permanent record” in the real world, so they need to protect it and keep it clean. A great place to start is establishing that, if information is online, then it’s public knowledge. Before they post, ask them, “Would you want your grandmother to see that? Your principal? Your future employer?” If the answer is no, they shouldn’t post it.
Tools & Resources to Help Keep Kids Safe
There are plenty of helpful tools and resources that can help you keep your kids safe online.
- Parental controls software keeps your kids safe online by restricting the content they see, as well as notifying parents of kids’ online activities. NetNanny features content filtering, as well as provides customizable controls that allow you to pick specific apps, games, websites and keywords that kids can access. Qustodio takes it a step further by offering time limits for specific websites, social media monitoring, and location tracking.
- There are also advanced tools for parents who want an extra layer of security for their kids. uKnowKids is a comprehensive parental intelligence tool that gives you a high-level overview of when your kids are online, what tech they’re using, what they’re posting, and who they talk to most. This is a great option if you want the ability to review all of the content your kids post online. An alternative is fan-favoriteMamaBear, which provides all the monitoring you need in addition to helpful features like a family locator and speeding detector for when they start driving.
The Bottom Line
As busy parents, it’s tough to be knowledgeable about all the new technology available to kids. Having honest conversations with your kids about the importance of responsible use of technology is the best way to lay the foundation for a lifetime of responsible technology use. If you need a little help along the way, there are plenty of online resources and tools to help you ensure your kids get the most out of their online experience while keeping it safe and secure.