I often get questions from parents about the role that technology should play for kids and adolescents. The up and coming generations are unique in that they are technology natives, meaning that, unlike their parents, they have grown up with technology. When I was a kid I didn’t even know what a cell phone was and now my three year old niece can navigate an iPhone to find games to play or videos to watch. Needless to say, times have changed and with those changes come new questions and concerns for parents. There are five key pieces of advice that I give to parents regarding kids and technology.
1. Talk to your child. Open communication and discussion surrounding technology and the internet are essential to insure your child’s safety. The internet allows an individual to have the world at their fingertips, but with this freedom also lurk very real dangers. Talking with your children about the proper use of technology and engaging them in discussion about how they are using it can prevent some of those safety breaches.
2. Educate Yourself. In a society that is constantly pushing forward, it can get overwhelming how quickly new programs, devices, and social media sites are developed. Do some research on what sites or apps your kids are using and how. Also, look at the newest social media sites and familiarize yourself with how to use them and what is age appropriate for your child to have access to.
3. Set boundaries. While kids hate rules and do their best to push boundaries, those same boundaries are vital for their safety and ultimately make children feel secure. Talk with your child about time-limited use of technology (phones, iPad, computers, gaming systems) and don’t be afraid to limit internet use to specific pre-approved sites/apps. Depending on the age of your child, it can be helpful to purchase parental control software to install on any computers, tablets, or phones that your child has access to. This allows you as the parent to be in control of the material and sites that your child is able to access.
4. Connect with others. Talking with teachers at your child’s school or connecting with other parents can give you new ideas of how to better implement boundaries and can also lend support for times you find yourself frustrated or unsure of what to do. Connecting with your kids through technology can be important too. Kids are increasingly communicating via text or sites like Snapchat or Facebook. Utilizing these sites yourself can provide new ways to connect with your children.
5. Keep the conversation going. The world we live in is fast-paced and ever-changing. Because of this, it’s so important to continue talking with your kids about technology and the safe/appropriate uses for it. Try not to limit yourself to a one time conversation about technology with your child, but keep the conversation going as they grow and develop.