Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on October 14th, 2014

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PSA. 6 guidelines for parents and kids in today's day of technology.

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Ebola, Isis, teacher strikes, threatening weather, app hacks. Life in a connected digital age. It can be a tough navigation sometimes. New things develop all the time. How we shop, get our news, etc. It's always evolving. Technology affects all generations. Kids today have phones earlier than their older siblings did just a few years ago. Today everything is connected, whether they have a smartphone or iPod on Wifi.

News consumption is easier than ever. That also means we tend to hear about things that maybe we didn't in years past. The news is constant and comes from varying outlets. Any event is saturated in the media. In addition to news, we are more connected than ever via varying social networks. This new technology brings a new burden for parents. We not only need to monitor our children's uses of technology, but we need to teach them how to use it responsibly. We need to be like Roz in Monster's Inc. "Always Watching". Below are a few suggestions.

1. News consumption. In a world of constant connection and news saturation, it is time to educate our children on viable news sources. Pick a news outlet, maybe two and teach your children about them. Maybe bookmark the site, download the app, etc. Kids are on Twitter, Facebook. They are seeing some intense news reports. Other kids are exaggerating reports or telling tall tales. For example, we have had 2 major Ebola conversations in the last two weeks. Last week was the high schooler, this week the middle schooler. Both had be beaten down with false reports of cases in Illinois. We discussed how Google can be your friend and that reputable networks are the places to verify. So, whether you like ABC, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, etc teach your child about a reputable station or newspaper.

2. Educate. Be a broken record. Educate your kids about appropriate online behavior. Teach them internet manners like you would table manners. Use news reports of foolish or dangerous behavior to show them examples of what not to do. Remind them what goes online stays online.

3. Be "Big Brother". Always be looking over their shoulder. And don't do it behind their backs. Be upfront with them that you will be monitoring. The rule in our house is we have passwords. They know we can and will go on their accounts at will. Monitor app downloads and usage. If they don't like the rule, no phone.

4. Educate yourself. Take time to Google apps your kids are using to learn about pros and cons of the apps. Discuss if they are a necessity and what precautions should be used.

5. Find My Friends. If you are an Apple family, please utilize the "Find My Friends" app. It is free. You can always track your family. Not just as big brother, but for safety. What if a child didn't check in? I can't tell you how many times I have gotten calls from friends parents looking for their kid. If they are with one of mine I can pinpoint location and share. I also then say, hey do yourself a favor and get this app. Google also has a version of the same app available for non-Apple devices.

6. Sharing. Constantly have discussions about what to share and not to share online. Even with older kids. Discuss privacy settings on apps. Talk about strangers and sharing locations, etc. You can't have this conversation too much.

In 2014 not only do we need to keep our kid's educated, we need to keep ourselves educated. Make sure you stay on top of the latest apps, and teen trends. Kids use lot's of slang, try to stay on top of it. Google it if you have to. Know their speak or they will discuss things in front of you while giggling because you will be in the dark. Technology is all of our friends, but it has its risks. Just as we teach our kids about stranger danger, fire safety, crossing the street, drugs, etc teach them about the dangers of technology as well. Technology has it's benefits for kids today. Make sure you know the pros as well as the cons.