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Challenge: Back to School

5 Digital Parenting Tips for Back to School

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One of the best parts of summer is having a respite from our rigid school schedule. I relish not getting up early in the morning to make lunches and move kids out the door. With our unstructured summer days, I inevitably ease up on bedtime as well as screen time. If you are like me, your kids have probably taken advantage of your easygoing attitude to download some new apps and refortify their Clash of Clan village.

These last weeks in August, I will be righting this wayward ship. Besides buying school supplies and trying to move bedtime back to a reasonable hour, I will be reviewing device contracts and cleaning up our digital house. If you too need to check back in before school starts, here are 5 digital parenting tips to put your family back on the right course.

Create or Update Family Device Contract

It is not always easy to find the time to sit down together and work out a contract but ultimately it makes digital parenting much easier. Taking the time to iron out their responsibilities and your expectations regarding their new smartphone or tablet in the beginning puts everyone is on the same page. If you have one already, now is the perfect time to review it. These contracts should grow as kids grow. Plus, a quick review provides another opportunity to talk about expectations and values around online behavior.

Set new passwords

New school year – new passwords. Most kids know they should not share passwords, but some do, especially girls. To make sure their former bestie cannot access their accounts they should change their passwords. Kids should not have the same Instagram password from 5th grade to senior year. While they are updating passwords, they should set a password/pincode for the device itself. Most people do not log out every time they open Instagram, Facebook or Vine and some apps, like Kik, do not have a log out button. Without a pincode on the device, anyone who picks up their phone or tablet can access all of their open social media profiles.

Update apps and operating system

Everyone should keep their apps and operating system updated. These updates often contain important security patches. Now, kids often do not like to update because the files are larger and take up more space. I am always shocked by how quickly my kids can fill up their device. They may need to delete a few apps so they can free up space. These updates are well worth it to keep their phone or tablet secure.

Search their name online

In the US, most kids have a digital presence by the time they are 2 years old. This means somewhere online is a post or picture about them. As they grow, so will their digital presence. In the digital age, a critical life skill is learning how to manage their digital reputation. The first step is to sit down together and search their name. Kids should know what people will see when they look for them online. This is also fantastic way to start a conversation about how easy it is to find posts and pictures on the internet.

Take a Tour

Now is the time to find what they were quietly doing, while you made dinner or finally finished that book. Sit down with them and take a tour of their device. During the tour, they can tell you about their favorite app and game and who they have kept in contact with over the summer and you can look at their privacy settings. Ask many questions. This is not about getting them in trouble. It is an opportunity to guide them and teach them about staying safe online.

If you see something, you have a concern about, talk to them about it. If it is a question about an app, together you can look up reviews and either change the settings to make it safer or find a better app for them. If they are on a social network, make sure they understand how quickly private communications can become public and the importance of sharing smart. If you need extra digital parenting help, check out my app reviews on KidsPrivacy as well as my digital parenting advice on Familoop.

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