Do you feel like you’re a tightrope walker? You must be a mom, then. If you’re anything like me, being a mom means you’re constantly trying to find your balance, let alone make it to your next goal without any missteps. Achieving balance isn’t always easy, either. After all, parenting often involves trying to reconcile conflicting objectives.
One of my top priorities is probably one of yours, too. You want your children to stay safe and protected. That’s a no-brainer.
We start off by choosing the most family-friendly neighborhood we can afford. Once our sweethearts are safe in a nice, protective little bubble, we immediately realize that we forgot something. Our kids still need us to locate some safe spaces for them to explore the world.
Experts believe that kids who are permitted to stretch their wings gradually turn into more resilient adults. My experience has been that this can be tough to live out. How are we supposed to allow this to happen, especially when the world outside can be so dangerous?
It’s a tough conundrum. On the one hand, you want them to become little explorers. On the other hand, I don’t even feel comfortable when my kids joke about drinking from the hose in the backyard. So what’s a modern mom to do?
As it turns out, many parents lean into technology to help them create safe spaces within healthy parameters for their kids. There are plenty of advanced tools and options created to give children the ability to take safer baby steps outside the nest. Our job is to find the right ones for our child’s age and stage. Managed well, we can sit back — and worry about something else while tackling the daily tightrope.
1. Start with a home security overhaul.
Once upon a time, securing our homes consisted primarily of a lock and perhaps a guard dog. But in today’s world, I want to have eyeballs on everything. I turned to home security systems to help in keeping my home safe from intruders and giving my kids a heightened sense of autonomy.
From changing the thermostat to monitoring camera footage, a security system allows me to control several functions while I’m away from home. I also taught my kids how to press the help button so that the appropriate medical, police, or fire crews will be alerted immediately.
2. Teach yourself about online privacy tools.
Before you hand your child a smartphone or allow them to search the internet, get yourself an education. Specifically, learn more about the parental controls available nowadays. These controls could include anything from a kid’s first phone that doesn’t include any browsing capabilities to specific programs that limit users’ ability to freely roam the web.
I’m often asked why not just “learn as you go” after you give your child a phone or buy him a laptop? To be perfectly honest, you’re setting yourself up to be a few moves behind. Kids have the aptitude and time to find loopholes quickly. Plus, they share information with one another.
Even if, like me, you’d hardly qualify as a tech expert, you owe it to yourself to sit through plenty of YouTube safety tutorials. Find out everything you can about VPNs, firewalls, and site blocking software. That way, when you introduce your child to the internet, you’ll be light years ahead in terms of knowledge.
3. Be wary of enabling social media accessibility.
Maybe you’ve already heard? Instagram has decided to dive into the junior scene. The social media site isn’t the first to jump into the kid set. YouTube tried it years ago. Before you let your child sign up, though, you should review all the relevant information about the portal and the effect it has on your kid’s psyche.
For example, how will Instagram (or any other social media site) keep our kids protected? This is a great question for us to be asking ourselves. How are accounts monitored and vetted? Can adults pretend to be kids online and “lurk” on actual children’s accounts? These are all modern problems that moms like us are being forced to confront.
Even if you do feel comfortable registering your child for a social media account, make sure to monitor it. Insist that you have the password. Jump in frequently to see what’s happening. Your child might not tell you about incidents like cyberbullying or inappropriate behavior by friends. The faster you know about those types of problems, the faster you can intervene.
4. Make TV viewing off-limits when you’re not at home.
Like me, you’ve probably told your kids a million times that you’re not going to let them watch TV when you’re not home. As they’re getting older, though, you’re realizing that you’re not sure how to keep them away from the set. Can you really take them at their word?
Obviously, we know that even good kids will be tempted to turn on the tube. The way to stop them is by using smarter features including child locks. Talk to your programming provider about child-locking technology that works for your preferred system.
Locking out our kids from using the TV and remote isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Very often all we have to do is activate existing options and input a unique pin. Just make sure that you don’t share the pin — or forget it!
5. Consider investing in kid-tracking wearables.
Are your children old enough to hang out with friends, go to the park with relatives, or walk home from school? Finding peace of mind can be tough, particularly if your kids don’t have phones yet. It certainly eases my mind to be able to locate my kids at all times.
One easy, affordable way to know where your children are at all times is with tech-enhanced wearables. From eye-catching watches to small devices, wearable technology allows us to keep track of our busy children. Anytime you want, you can monitor the movement of your children. That’s important for all parents, of course, but especially comforting if you have to be apart from your kids for any length of time.
Not all kids are happy to be watched by their moms 24/7, of course. That being the case, you might want to start the process when your kiddos are younger. Expect preteens to start resisting your desire to know what they’re doing all the time. That’s only normal. Nonetheless, you don’t need to give up or in. There are plenty of apps that allow you to hone in on your child’s smartphone using GPS tech. They don’t get to call it “spying” until after they turn 18.
6. Revisit your own use of technology.
Be honest. Are you spending tons of time on your smartphone? Do you text more than you talk during the day? Are you often swiping through your own Facebook or Instagram accounts?
A surefire way to make unfettered access to everything and anything seem less interesting to kids is to stop using it yourself. In other words, teach your kids to stay alert by staying alert yourself. Put the phone down when you’re driving. Make sure it’s out of sight on shopping trips. Engage with your children instead and talk about the world around them.
You have so many life lessons to share, more than you might realize. We can actually make life safer for our kids by explaining why we cross the street at the corner or by pointing out how to ride more securely when you’re on a street with traffic. The more you share your wisdom — and yes, you have it to share — the healthier your children will be. It’s fine to use tech. Just don’t overly rely on it.
Although Mother’s Day tends to be a busy holiday, every day should be mom’s day, “lowercase style.” Celebrate your natural desire to protect your little and big ones by using technology judiciously. That way, your balancing act could be that much less harrowing on a daily basis.