Keep your children safe (online and off) with these tips
For many of us, technology is starting to move faster than we can keep pace with. At least once a week my wife hands my 14-year-old daughter her iPhone because she needs something changed and the teen has a better clue than the mother. If you have kids old enough to have their own smartphones (or tablets), then you are fully aware of the opportunities that our children have at their fingertips.
The world has changed drastically from the days when your mother needed to know whose house you were playing at in the neighborhood. Our children can be in contact with anybody from every corner of the world, and we may have no clue. On its surface, that is a truly amazing thing. They can do things we only dreamed of when we were their age. Unfortunately, wherever there are children, there is a seedy element looking to take advantage of the naive youth.
How do we keep ahead of our adventurous children who want to spread their wings with the newfound freedom that technology offers? Here are a few ways, none of which the children will be happy about. However in this current environment of cyber-bullying, sexting and worse, the priority is not happiness, it is safety.
One of my daughter’s very close friends happens to be the daughter of her middle school teacher. As the educator of middle school-aged children, she has tried to stay ahead of technology. One of the ways she keeps up with what is going on with her child is havingHave every account the child sets up usinge the mother’s contact information. Every message, every post, every photo sends an alert to the mother’s phone so that she can monitor the activity. This has helped remove any chance of contact from strangers, and keeps the level of communication to family-friendly levels.
Another option that we use is the concept of random spot checks. There is no privacy for any of our three children in regards to technology. At any given time, they are expected to hand us their device, give us passwords, and explain any questionable activity or applications that we did not approve of them downloading. We limit them to only being “friends” with people that we know and approve of. We read through their text messages, Instagram posts, any games they may have where you can communicate with others, etc. These exercises are met with hostility, but it has kept the children from pushing too far into an unsafe world.
One final way to monitor the activities of your children, is to only allow them access to their devices at certain times and in a public space, such as the living room. This way you can be there instead of letting the children behind closed doors. One friend of ours only allows their daughters to be on technology for one hour each evening, and only while in the family room with one parent present. The majority of this time is spent with the girls on Facetime with their classmates. The parents can hear the conversations and keep tabs on what is going on at their school.
You may feel some of this is overkill. With proper education and safeguards, you may be able to avoid this. If so, that is a wonderful thing, because the technology available today can be used for wonderful things. However, while I was a relatively good kid, I also tested every boundary my parents put in front of me. Thankfully, I never did anything that caused harm to anybody or anything. It is our job as parents to make sure those that do test boundaries, do it in a safe way. Some of these ideas might help accomplish that.
If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them.