We live in a very technological age – far beyond what was around when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. When I was a kid, my main source of entertainment was waiting for me outdoors. Growing up in rural Georgia, there were so many activities and things to keep me occupied outside. I never had to worry about social media or cell phones. I did have the ORIGINAL Nintendo, but of course it wasn’t connected to the Internet. We’d be lucky if the game worked for an hour without taking it out of the console and blowing on it (you 80s kids know what I’m talking about!)
While technology is super cool and interesting to this daddy, it poses many challenges in a house with four kids. Managing all of the kids’ electronic gadgets and access can be a huge task, and even more of a task to monitor what they are doing while they are using them. Here are some tips for you that I have learned and put into practice in my own household.
Passwords Are Your Friend
My kids try to get into EVERYTHING. With so much dangerous information out there online, I had to draw a line and password protect anything that posed a risk to my kids mental or physical safety. We use Dish Network as our TV provider, and are very happy with the parental controls that come with it. You can set controls around TV ratings or specific channels. Don’t make the rookie mistake of giving the password to your kids! It totally defeats the whole purpose!
If your kids have a tablet or a Kindle, setting a password is easy. Don’t use a password that they may know for something else. Make it obvious to you or your spouse, but impossible for your kids to figure out. If you do have a home PC or laptop, use the parental controls feature to create a separate kids’ username and password. Limit time spent online and block websites using customized settings.
No Shirt, No Shoes, No Social Media Accounts
Ok, you may disagree with me depending on how old your child is, but for my 4, who are all under 10, there is no reason why they need Facebook or Twitter. Social media accounts are all difficult to monitor even when you are following them. While you can monitor privacy settings, it is too easy for their eyes to see things they really shouldn’t see. With the list of social media platforms growing by the minute, it’s becoming ever so difficult to manage. Limiting or preventing social media account access is a good option.
Although I personally look down on couples who share a joint Facebook account (annoying, right?), a joint facebook account for you and your kids is a great way to allow them freedom of sharing their status and photos while at the same time giving you full access to what’s going on. If you don’t want to extend the privilege of a personal account, a joint account may just be the route to go!
Beware of Interactive Gaming
XBox, Playstation and other gaming systems all have the option of connecting with other gamers around the world to play games online. While some games are legitimately safe, other games are breeding grounds for bullies or predators. Set limits on what games can be played online and that an adult must be in the room at all times when the game is being played. Sexual predators use these types of opportunities to lure children. Scary stuff!
Always be aware of the games kids are playing and keep up with the latest trends. A visit to your local game store associate can earn you valuable inside information on all of the popular games kids are attracted to and are playing. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids questions about their video games, and most certainly don’t be afraid to actually try the game yourself. You can discover in a matter of minutes whether the game is actually appropriate or not.
Create a Schedule
One great way to monitor who plays what and when is to create a weekly schedule. Rotate by day or by week who plays first or last. Stick to the schedule and be willing to enforce consequences for going over the schedule. Modify the schedule based on the time of year. For example, if the kids are in school, chances are you will want to cut TV or game time shorter to allow for activities and homework. Be consistent and communicate expectations up front.
To Phone or Not to Phone
Some parents like for their kids to have a cell phone so that they have a form of communication when the family is apart. I can see that as a good thing for parents with older kids, but again, my kids are all too young to be able to responsibly manage a cell phone. At this point in their lives, I can get in touch with them if I need them by either calling my wife, the school, the sitter, or the in-laws. The decision to give your child a cell phone is tough. Allowing them to be independent and prove they can be responsible is important as they advance in age, but starting too soon could lead to problems. When making the decision to give your child a cell phone, decide whether it is really needed. Do they want it to stay in touch with the family, or are they looking to connect with friends or play games?
I hope all of these tips will help you as much as they have helped me. We’ve only just started in the technology world. So many new ideas and gadgets are constantly being created every day to make our lives easier. As parents, we hold a big responsibility to keep our kids safe and healthy. By following simple safety tips, managing electronics at home can be a breeze!