Looking back over technological advances in my life, it’s amazing the benefits that technology has added. Yet, there is definitely a time and place for it. There are many things my children can learn and many tools they can use on mobile devices and online. There are also many things I want my kids to stay away from. As a parent, it can be very scary. However, you can keep kids safe online with common sense.
I realize I was raised in the “digital” age, but let’s just say my children are leaps and bounds beyond what I was raised in.
I remember our very first computer in our house. A huge white chunky box twice the size of a coffeemaker and it had a floppy drive…yeah.
Kids in my elementary school did not have mobile phones. Let’s just say this, I had a pager before I ever had a cell phone. If you wanted to hear music outside of your house you had to carry a 20lb. boom box or a Walkman.
We still passed notes in high school. Ohhh, the dread if a teacher ever intercepted the note.
You had time to eat a snack when you got home as you waited for dial-up to connect you to the internet. Remember yelling through the house, because someone picked up the landline and “knocked you offline”?
VHS was still the main way to watch a movie. You went to a place called a video store, like Blockbuster (my first job) to rent these tapes. DVD’s became big and affordable when I was in high school. I also finally got a cell phone of my very own, it was a Nokia. It had a 2″ green screen.
In college, texting became a tool of communication. The first iPod (which I still have) was released, and Facebook launched. Although you still had to have a .edu email address to be able to sign up for Facebook then.
I used to watch this Disney movie (1999) called Zenon. I loved it! It was so futuristic and unbelievable. These kids lived in space and had these ‘tablet’ computers they carried with them everywhere. They could swipe their hands on them, video chat with their friends, send messages…hmm…wow. 😉
Well, my kids now live in that era (well, not in space… yet.)
This learning curve for both my children and myself will adapt over time. As they mature, and as technology continues to advance.
Education is key.
Not just teaching my children online safety, but my own education as well. Navigating this emerging era where the statistics for young children are astounding:
“Among families with children age 8 and under, there has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices such as iPads, from 8% of all families in 2011 to 40% in 2013. The percent of children with access to some type of “smart” mobile device at home (e.g., smartphone, tablet) has jumped from half (52%) to three-quarters (75%) of all children in just two years.”
“In fact, today, 38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device for media (compared to 10% two years ago). The percent of children who use mobile devices on a daily basis – at least once a day or more – has more than doubled, from 8% to 17%. The amount of time spent using these devices in a typical day has tripled, from an average of :05 a day among all children in 2011 up to :15 a day in 2013.”
Taking all this in, my first recommendation and a good place to always start is www.commonsensemedia.org.
Keep Kids Safe Online with Common Sense [commonsensemedia.org, that is.]
When my oldest son began to emerge into the world of tech I needed a way to know what was good and what was bad…quickly. What app or game was educational, safe and had positive benefits? What app or game had low ratings, bad language, explicit innuendos, and programming bugs?
At first, I relied on the App Store (we are primarily an Apple family). I read the reviews, checked the age rating, and looked over the revision and updates for every app my son was interested in. I thought I was doing some good homework.
Let me tell you, it’s not enough.
Many of those reviews are spammed in by the programmers (creators of the app) themselves. Not always, but a lot of the time. They also aren’t “parent friendly”. They don’t tell you in great detail every thing a parent would want to know before unleashing to their child.
Truth is, there are a few games I can think of now that I would not have let my son download. If only I knew then what I know now.
For example, Minecraft.
I’m not hating on Minecraft. Believe me, it’s fun and creative in its own regard, but if I had known all the details of the game I would have waited until my son was a bit older to introduce it to him.
www.commonsensemedia.org gives you these true “parent details”.
Above, you get the website’s overall review. with age recommendations and details.
Then, you also get details on exactly what is included in the game. Parents reviews and age recommendations. And a feature I like, kids reviews and recommendations. I read over both and then ‘read between the lines’ to get an overall understanding of what the media I’m looking at is really about.
Ultimately it’s a matter of your own family’s values, judgement and teachings.
Our process is that the boys are setup as children in our family account (more details on how to do this with parental restrictions coming in a future post). They can only see apps, music, videos within certain restriction parameters.
They have to ask permission to download anything. My husband or I research and evaluate before giving our approval or denial decision. If it’s iffy, hubs and I discuss first then decide together.
Does this sound time consuming? Yes, a bit. However, I don’t consider a second of it wasted. This is time spent on my children’s safety, personal growth and character. It’s an investment of my time done out of love.
Another plus, my boys know not to beg me into submission for some game. Especially not when I’m distracted and it might be possible to slip something by me [like those cookies they ask me for when I’m on the phone]. They know to get an app, game, song or movie will require research by Mom or Dad. Not a quick “sure…whatever..” response.
Do you have any additional resources you use before purchasing media, apps or games?
*I want to add: I am in no way affiliated with www.commonsensemedia.org. They did not sponsor, or request me to write this post. I truly believe in their site and do use it on a regular basis for our family. I simply believe in sharing valuable, great, and true resources with my readers.