If you had asked me a few months ago what I felt about “screen time” and kids, I would have told you that I wouldn’t give my kids their own devices or allow social media accounts until they were 15. But things have changed. Now, I’m happy to let the kids on the family tablet, and even allow them to use things like FaceTime, games, and email. Why? Because I want to make sure that they have some type of connection to the outside world.
However, this didn’t happen without some ground rules, not only to keep the kids safe, but to make sure they don’t totally fall headfirst into cyberspace. Here’s some tips:
No Social Media
Oh you didn’t think I was gonna give you a pass did you? No, my 14-year-old is still not on social media, and she doesn’t complain about it, she doesn’t miss it, and she’s better off for it. First of all, it’s a time suck, it’s often a cesspool of BS, misinformation, disinformation, and just plain mean-ness.
Sure my kids might get the occasional TikTok video from one of their friends, but they don’t have the app, they’re not spending any time on it, and while they might learn a TikTok dance or two, they’re certainly not recording one and posting it online.
Teach Your Kids to Respect Digital Devices
There are a number of ways that you can do this, including setting a rule that they must ask permission before they use the device or go online. By doing this, you are making them conscious of their actions.
Set Rules on When They Can Have Access to Certain Apps or Devices
Another thing you can do is make sure that you set rules about when your kids can access certain devices or aps. For instance, maybe make a rule that they must use devices in common areas, or they can only use game apps after dinner. Whatever the case, you should be checking in on what they are doing.
Create a Schedule
Only allow your kids to use devices when you are available to help or when you know they can’t get in trouble. Allow them to watch Netflix while you are in an online meeting but bring the remote with you.
Create an Agreement
Also, think about a “tech agreement” for your kids. If they break the rules, there will be consequences, just like they have with other rules in your home.
Discuss Online Privacy and Tone
One of the most important things to do is discuss online privacy and tone. Kids don’t always realize that what goes on the internet can stay there forever. Suggest, perhaps, telling your kids not to do anything they wouldn’t do or say with grandma in the room. It works.
Tell Them Your Expectations
Talk to your kids about what you are comfortable with…or not…when they are online. For instance, if you don’t want them talking to strangers, there are email programs that allow you to approve and email that is sent and received. There are similar chat programs.
Is it Time to Talk About Pornography?
This might be the perfect time to talk about pornography, too. Experts say conversations about this should start around kindergarten. To minimize the chances your kid will access it, use parental controls or kid-friendly browsers.
Understand that Kids Will be Kids
Finally, take a deep breath and realize that kids will be kids. As long as they are being safe and polite, allowing them access to these things might be the best way to get through these nationwide quarantines.
ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.