Kids and technology: how to manage it?
How do you manage kids and technology in your home? By this, I don’t just mean what you buy, how often you update it and where you charge it. I mean: what are your family rules around technology and how do you make it as safe as you can for everyone? My kids are young, but do use computers for homework and games, so we have introduced some rules and practices in our home, to manage technology – they’re not all technical ones. My husband does work in IT, so that helps. However, all of my tips below don’t require any expert knowledge.
I know parents often joke about things like ‘the kids know all the passwords’ or ‘the kids know how to use everything better than us’, and it does sometimes seem that way. The best way to overcome this is to develop a family culture around the way technology is used. There’s a whole lot of ‘unacceptable use policies’ that most people see in the workplace regarding technology: why wouldn’t you have some kind of similar understanding at home?
Here’s a few of the basics, to get you started:
This is the first thing to do: talk to your family about the some of the risks of online life and make it a non-taboo subject. Encourage openness and discussion about online behaviour – explain what all of these terms mean and different examples of each:
- cyber bullying (the obvious and not so obvious; how not to be a part of this)
- inappropriate content (pornography, language, racism, sexism, violence)
- social engineering (to manipulate people into giving out particular information)
- detrimental game immersion (what happens when people get so immersed in a game that it becomes their sole focus)
If you are still concerned, review browsing history on devices at home. No browsing history could indicate in-private browsing.
Mobile device control
Centralise all mobile devices at night. We have a rule that there are to be no devices in bedrooms. This includes phones, tablets, iPads and laptops. All mobile computing has to be in open living spaces. I know this isn’t aesthetically pleasing to everyone. However, it makes it clear that there are to be no ‘secrets’ around devices.
Turn WiFi off at night, or any time of the day you don’t want your family online. If you are really concerned about online behaviour, you may need to consider what devices really need 3G/4G connections as this can work around home network controls. Some Telco’s offer parental controls on mobile plans to restrict website and SMS activity.
Actually, firstly, I should say: learn how to use and control your WiFi! There’s plenty of households where the kids seem to be the only ones who know the WiFi password. Don’t be that parent! That’s kind of like . . . . giving your kids $1000 of at the start of the school holidays an telling them they can go watch any movie they like, eat any food they want, buy any books or magazines . . . You’d expect to end up with confused and unwell kids, right?
AntiVirus software- on PC’s and mobile devices
Make sure, as a base level of protection on a PC/connected mobile device, that you have reputable antivirus software installed – and kept updated. You can go to the parental/family controls within this software once it is installed, to select categories of websites that should be blocked. Do this!
Most of us tend to be bad at this – I am, but my husband keeps on top of this. Look, for most, just backing up files to an external hard drive might be sufficient. However, there are so many cloud options now, it’s worth considering for convenience and longevity of data.
This is really important if you become the victim of ransomware or phishing scams. If an email or website is too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Often phishing emails are targeted to seem like they come from banks or postal services to invite to you click on a link. Don’t ever do this!
As a general family rule, we don’t have any ‘private’ passwords to devices that belong in our home. Make your passwords strong! This means your passwords should contain symbols, numbers and letters. A few more tips on passwords:
- Use different passwords across services
- Change passwords regularly
- If you have many passwords, consider a password manager like LastPass or Keepass
- Two Factor Authentication (password + SMS code or password + mobile app code) offers more protection than just a password
Uncontrolled mobile purchases
Turn off in-app purchases on any shared devices. Set controls in iTunes and Google Play store to always require credit card security codes. Seriously: my 5 year old nephew managed to spend over $100 on his Dad’s credit card, just by using the Xbox.
Some Antivirus applications have social media plugins that check privacy and potential risky links, so check to see if yours does. My kids are not yet old enough to be on social media, but my nieces and nephews are and the stuff they are exposed to just kills me. The thing is, they’re so young, they don’t yet understand the ramifications of everything they see and do online and it changes their perception of what is ‘normal’.
To be honest, I’m keeping my kids off social media for as long as possible. The best early ways to handle it are not technological at all – talk to your kids about what social media is, how people use it, the good and bad things about it and what’s OK and not OK. Kids rely on their parents to model behaviours for them; if you’re on social media every spare minute, this lets them know that it’s acceptable to be doing this. I’d previously closed my personal Facebook account, not wanting to be doing this in front of the kids. However, when I started my business, I needed to have a social media presence. So, I tell the kids when I need to use it, explain that it’s ‘work’ and try to stick to set times. It’s pretty tempting to be checking updates all of the time . . . it takes a bit of discipline to just put the phone down.
See! Told you it wasn’t all technical. What do you do to manage the kids technology at home? What works for you?
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