Today we welcome guest blogger, Ruth Johnson who shares some thoughts on positive digital habits for parents and kids. When Ruth isn’t writing, she’s a parent, foodie, and crafting addict.
It’s not just teens who are glued to their mobile devices these days. The National Parent Teacher Association reports kids eight and younger tripled the amount of time they spent accessing media on mobile devices between 2011 and 2013. That’s an alarming statistic, especially when coupled with reports of online predators and data breaches. The trend of more kids using mobile devices and the Internet at younger ages has prompted the PTA to partner with LifeLock to develop tools and educational kits to teach parents and kids alike about potential risks associated with Internet us. The program also recommends good habits to keep kids safe.
With technology moving at the speed of light, it can be difficult to keep up with all the ways criminals can hack your family’s devices and exploit the information they find. The collaboration between PTA and LifeLock.com will undoubtedly result in valuable resources for parents and kids. Meanwhile, there are a few common sense habits that you and your kids can practice that will give your family a leg up on Internet safety:
The Communication Key
One habit you can establish to keep your kids safe on the Internet is communication. The Safer Internet Day website recommends having family discussions over dinner or in other casual settings. It shouldn’t be a one-time event, but an on-going dialog to continuously reinforce the seriousness of safety on the Internet. Talk about things such as:
- the dangers of communicating with strangers online
- the risks of in-person meetings with people they meet on the Internet
- the hazards of downloading files or opening emails from strangers
- warn against giving out any personal information online, such as full name, address, telephone or social security numbers, even to "trusted" sources
Tell kids, too, that the communication is open both ways. Encourage them to come to you if they are threatened, asked for a face-to-face meeting or feel uncomfortable with someone they interact with online.
Family Tech Time
Similar to family game night, schedule a weekly or monthly tech night at your home to stay up to date on apps, gadgets, social media sites and everything else your kids know and you don’t. It will not only be a learning experience for you, it keeps the communication lines open. Visit your kids’ favorite virtual worlds and online game sites so you know where they’re spending their time. If some of them seem questionable to you, make them off-limits and explain why. The explanation is more than justification. It demonstrates the guidelines you’re using to make good decisions for your kids. That way they can learn to make judgment calls about new sites they stumble across.
Limit and Monitor Internet and Device Use
Don’t let your kids get in the habit of spending every free moment on their mobile device and/or the Internet. Instead, get them into the practice of only spending a set amount of time each day playing games, chatting and emailing. Whether it’s 45, 60 or 90 minutes, when the allotted time is up, your kids can immerse themselves in other worthwhile activities such as playing outside, reading or doing crafts. Of course, your kids should be in the habit of doing homework and chores before heading for their favorite gadget. Additionally, the National Association of School Psychologists recommends a habit for parents — routinely checking your computer’s browser for a rundown of the websites that have recently been accessed.
Happy Family Browsing Everyone!