kids and technology - faq

Kids and technology – FAQ

I love this guest post from Martine of The Modern Parent, she shares many answers to the commonly asked questions by parents in relation to kids and technology. Her approach is not one that sees technology as inherently bad for kids, but it is practical, realistic and informative.

Be sure to click through to the links included below for more information on issues like setting up safe settings, what does BYOD mean and much more. You can also find Martine of facebook, twitter and instagram.

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As both a parent to 5 children and a counsellor and speaker on all things parenting in the modern world, I have come to recognise that keeping our kids safe and responsible with technology and the online world requires ongoing and ever changing communication, strategy, support and guidance.

It is not a one off attendance at a cyber safety talk, an occasional glance over the shoulder of a texting tween or a newly installed security filter. It requires an awareness of so many different facets of digital life.  In order to answer the most common questions I get asked from parents, we must recognise the dynamic nature of the technology as well as the changes and advancements of our children as they grow in this highly connected world.

Here are some of the most common questions I get asked from parents.

My child is starting school with a new device as part of the BYOD program. What can I do to help keep them safe?

When kids as young as 5 are being handed an internet enabled device the concerns are many and varied and rightly so. There are many things you can do to help keep both them (and their device) safe which you can read about in this post.

Aside from setting up safe settings, privacy restrictions, talking to our kids about passwords and personal information, we need to start teaching other skills such as critical thinking. Kids need to start learning about the difference between content and advertising, fact, fiction, opinion and knowing what to do when they see inappropriate or disturbing content.

One of the best ways you can start conversations about the different pitfalls of the technology is to have the kids discuss and sign an internet contract. I have found with my own kids it is something that is great to revisit often as it covers many of the areas that are important for kids safety, but also some of the things that may inadvertently slip their mind from time to time.

My kids are using their technology and playing games all the time. They get angry when I ask them to put it away. How do I know if they are addicted?

The amount of time kids spend online or with their technology is one of the biggest gripes of parents today. For the majority of kids they often play for long periods of time on a new game or new device, but then they settle in to something more manageable once the novelty wears off. To help ensure that your child is able to regulate their own behaviours or at least respond to your requests without an argument, it is important to start early with time limits.

From the moment our kids can swipe an ipad we need to let them know that there are limits and boundaries to their use. A simple warning 5 minutes before they finish is enough for any child to finish the game, conversation or update. For older kids it gets trickier as they use their devices for homework as well as a good majority of their social life.

Even throughout the teen years however kids need to be able to put away the technology. As parents we must still insist on boundaries around use, we must encourage time away from the technology and nurture real life interactions.

Taking away the technology is great for younger kids to help teach them when they have not respected the rules, but with older kids we need to be more creative as taking it away completely can often be more detrimental. And remember to look at how you yourself are role modelling your behaviour with your device and technology. Are you consciously putting it down in order to really connect with your friends and family?

My kid wants to go on Facebook, Kik, Instagram etc. I hear about kids getting in to trouble on these sites. When should I let them have access?

Social networking sites are where today’s kids do a good deal of their socialising. Like it or not this is how it is. Like it or not, kids will find a way around if you try and prevent it for too long or place unrealistic restrictions on their use. Whilst certain apps and sites come with age restrictions, it is important to note that age alone does not determine whether or not someone is responsible enough to use the site. Some younger children are perfectly capable of using social networking sites responsibly, whilst other older children repeatedly make the same mistakes.

We cannot rely on sites and settings to keep our kids safe. The age that you should be allowing your child to engage with social networking sites is when you as a parent are able to closely monitor, to teach and to guide them through. They will likely make mistakes, but we need to see these as teachable moments and hope that these mistakes are the little ones they can learn from to prevent the bigger ones later. It takes experience for kids to work out the most responsible online behaviours.

By closely monitoring, watching who they are talking to and ‘friending’, keeping up with what kids are doing and by keeping the conversations going, we can better equip our kids with the skills and thinking necessary to safely navigate the online world.

My kids know so much. How can I ever be expected to keep up?

The short answer is you can’t be expected to keep up with everything, but you must certainly give it a good go. Our kids will always be a step ahead in terms of the technology and the sites they visit, but as parents, we now have a duty to keep up to date as much as we can, not so much to follow them on every site or monitor every interaction, but to help teach them the skills and understanding they need to be safe wherever they are hanging out. If we don’t remain relevant to our kids, our advice becomes redundant and useless.

We need to keep reading about what kids are doing, talk to other parents, attend cyber safety talks, keep communication open and relevant with our kids and play around with some of the sites ourselves so we have a greater understanding and perspective. We also need to encourage the positive elements of the technology and online interactions. If we only ever talk about the risks and dangers, chances are they will start tuning out.

It is not my kid that I am worried about.  There are so many bullies out there. How do we deal with the mean kids?

Unfortunately it seems there will always be some mean kids. Or sometimes just kids who get caught up in the moment without the skills or inclination to speak out.  But yes there will always be people who are willing to bring people down. We can teach our kids the appropriate strategies to cope with bullies. We can tell them to first delete, then block the offender, then screen shot if it continues, then contact their site administrator and tell an adult.

We also need to teach our kids a number of skills to ensure that they are able to show some resilience and a thick skin. By encouraging pursuits and interests away from the screens, we can ensure our kids do not rely solely on likes and followers to build their self esteem. More than ever now too, we need to look at kindness and empathy as one of the most important values we can instil in our children.

So yes, the skills, the values, the understanding and the strategies needed are many and varied. But mostly it is important to not be afraid, to do the best you can and to enjoy this dynamic and ever evolving world with our children.

What do you find most challenging about kids and technology?