Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
I always thought that my husband and I made our rules pretty clear when it came to screen time use in our home. Babysitters and grandparents knew that our kids weren’t to be on the computer unsupervised. They needed to ask permission before using gaming systems. Screen time limits apply to the total amount of time spent on all devices with screens. But we never thought that the rules outside our home would be any different when our children were staying with grandparents who knew our house rules.
We were wrong.
After coming home from a solo trip to their grandparents, our then 7-year-old daughter told us about their weekend. She had some burning questions about the sheep her grandmother was raising and together they looked on Google for the answers. Our daughter then proceeded to tell us that she stayed on the computer and continued to Google without her grandmother.
A seven-year-old on Google alone is never a good idea.
There are too many opportunities for misspellings of search terms that could lead to inappropriate content for young eyes. I thought the grandparents in our kids’ lives knew this since it was a house rule that they aren’t to be left unsupervised on the computer for this very reason.
This taught us a lesson.
The rules in our house for our kids were not the same when the walked out the door and went elsewhere. While grandparents know now that the same rules apply, our kids are older. They’re going to play dates at friends’ houses where they’re using the computer unsupervised and while I can’t control what goes on in their friends’ houses, I can only hope that our kids exercise good judgment about appropriate content and balancing out screen time with other activities when they’re with their friends.
How do you ensure that your children remain safe online and through mobile devices even when they’re not with you?
Young girl with headset and using the laptop computer via Shutterstock.
Friday, February 10th, 2012
The internet is a treasure trove of information that also can also present real risks for kids of all ages. Rather than going to the extremes of banning the use of digital devices (computers, tablets, phones, etc.) in the home, be practical and exercise good judgment. Take some simple steps in order to protect your family online.
The following five suggestions serve as starting points for every family.
Establish guidelines for the use of digital devices. Guidelines will vary according to age but general ones for all ages include limiting screen time, standards for appropriate online behavior, being careful not to share too much information online, and being sure that other caregivers respect and uphold your family’s rules for using devices when looking after your children.
Locate the computer in the hub of your home. Placing the family computer in a high traffic area allows you to keep an eye on what your child is doing. While teens may value their privacy, a computer in a bedroom means not being able to see what programs they are using, who they are talking to, or what information they may be sharing. Having the computer in a central location also encourages more conversations about what is on the screen rather than isolation.
Have a discussion about the meaning of privacy. Whether online or off, some things need to remain private. Since there is a certain sense of anonymity online, it can be difficult for some to comprehend that the internet is a very public place where the tidbits that are shared remain forever. Status updates, tweets, check-ins, blog posts, and photos create a digital footprint that is forever archived online and can’t be taken back. Trusting children also need to know that it is even more important to only share information with those you know and trust since not everyone appearing to be your friend online really is.
Check settings and security on programs to ensure personal privacy and use filtering software. Even with the computer located in a common area of your home, it is impossible to monitor all activity. Filtering software and parental controls can aid in blocking unwanted or inappropriate content while adjusting settings on internet browsers and social networking tools helps ensure that personal information is only shared with trusted networks.
Create an open dialogue. Talk to your children about internet dangers and be willing to learn about the things your kids are doing online and the common lingo. If you don’t know something, ask them! Allowing your child to act as your teacher can be very empowering. It not only helps create a culture of respect, but demonstrates that the adults in their lives are willing to work with them in order to keep them safe both online and in real life.
What do you do to ensure that your kids stay safe while online?
Image of Kids Using Tablet PC via Shutterstock