Did you know that the average child is 12 years old when they receive their first cell phone? That’s crazy to me, considering cell phones were barely invented when I was 12. We had payphones and beepers. It took me a long time to accept the fact that my girls will one day ask for a cell phone and that they currently know how to work the smart TV and iPad better than I do.
They are growing up in a world that relies on technology to perform everyday tasks. It’s not just about playing games on their iPads anymore. Now, digital notebooks and whiteboards are the norm in most classrooms. Children are asked to type their homework on the computer instead of handwriting assignments. There’s no longer a need to learn script, which makes me wonder if my daughters will ever know how to sign their name. But then again, will they really need to? Everything is done electronically these days from handling money, to communicating, and even checking your child’s homework.
But the truth remains that whether we like it or not, our children are exposed to technology, which means they have access to the internet, social media and likely subject matter that is mature in nature. So how do you encourage your child’s independence and help foster their love of learning while also shielding them from those things that are far beyond their years? Here are some helpful tips I’ve found as I prepare for my oldest daughter to approach me with the demand, “I’m the only kid without a cell phone”!
These are probably your first line of defense against inappropriate content and they’re not just designated for cell phone use. Laptops, tablets, and televisions all have parental controls. Most web browsers offer filters where you can prevent your child from stumbling on questionable material. But what’s even better, is that there are actually certain browsers and search engines that are designed just for kids.
One of my favorites is YouTube Kids. If your child is anything like my girls, they love YouTube. And in all honesty, there are a lot of educational and entertaining videos found on YouTube. The problem is by clicking on one video, you’re often directed to other “related” videos. After a few clicks, your child can find themselves fair from the type of content they were originally watching. YouTube Kids allows you to set the age range for your child and they will only have access to age-appropriate videos.
No Private Time
This means that your child shouldn’t be allowed on any digital device that connects to the internet without you being present. I don’t allow my daughters to play on their iPads alone in their rooms. They know they have to keep them in the living room where I can see and hear them. If you have a computer that the entire family uses, make sure it’s in a common area like the dining room or a desk in the living room. Allowing your young child to work on the internet without your eyes on them is a recipe for disaster.
Teach them About Privacy
Although your child shouldn’t keep their search history a secret, there are certain things that they need to know are private information. These things include their real name (especially their full name), their address, their age, and overall identity. This even includes the name of their school, the town they live in, places they like to go or their friend’s names. Your child should never send pictures of themselves to anyone or use their photos to identify any accounts they might have. I suggest only allowing your children to access things using your account, if at all.
Talk About It
Like any other major life issue, discuss online safety with your kids. Don’t assume that your child knows the rules of the internet. It’s important to talk about these things openly. It’s also important for your child to understand that your overprotective nature is not because you don’t trust them but simply because you want them to remain safe. It’s not always an easy battle to have, but at the end of the day, your child’s safety is of utmost importance.