For the past few years, we have presented the “four-prong strategy” to better managing your child’s online activity. In 2017, in our SIMON SAYS TAKE TEN STEPS FORWARD article, we recommended ten steps – but with the advancements in smartphone capabilities and new parental controls, we have reduced the total to four simple actions.
1) Talk to your child and Your Peers
When working with your child, it’s essential to set expectations related to appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology. Understand that if your child is at least twelve years old, there is an excellent likelihood that their friend’s parents have already provided technology to their children. Moreover, your child’s friends are already using YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, TikTok, and others. If you choose to allow access for your child to such technology, you’ll need to control what apps are allowed on their devices.
This requires that each member of the family a contract regarding what they may or may not do with their device. Periodically review the contact and make sure everyone is living up to the agreement. You can download our BARK and A Wired Family contract here.Tech Contract for Families and Kids
It’s also essential to speak with your peers; other parents and teachers and share your own experiences. Living in an information age without the benefit of conversation — or, viewing life only through your own experiences is a bit short-sighted. I have learned more from speaking with teachers, counselors, police officers, students, and other parents than I have by simply reading and doing research.
Reach out and start the conversation at your child’s school, your neighborhood, and church or recreation center. Share what you know – and listen to what others say.
2) Create a Tech-Free Zone.
Depending on your child’s age, consider creating a tech-free zone. This might include the dinner table, bathroom, and bedroom. Keep in mind that although technology has increased our ability to communicate with people outside of the home, it has sorely damaged our ability to communicate with those that are most dear to us. We are not simply suggesting this approach for managing your child’s online behavior – it is also suggested for the adults in the family.
In fact, it’s reported that one out of five divorces is blamed on Facebook. The study, published by the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, researchers determined that people who use Facebook excessively are more likely to succumb to marital or relationship issues.
An entire website is devoted to helping people whose relationships have ended due to social media. Limiting where devices may be used will help reduce the temptation for your child to send something they’ll later regret. It might also make you think about limiting your own access to technology.
As for your kids, remember they are children whose brains are not fully wired. As such, their decision-making is severely hampered by hormones; incomplete brain development and lack of experience. They need your help to avoid temptation and misuse of technology. They might hate you today – but they’ll thank you tomorrow.
As the stat indicated, 75% of kids are allowed to sleep with their phones. The bedroom is where the majority of sexting takes place. Since 25% of American teens have sent nude pictures – this is a significant reason for minimizing access to devices at night. Moreover, teens sleeping with their phones is a significant cause of teen sleep deprivation.
3) Know Their Account Passwords
If your child is under the age of 16, you and only you should create and know the password to your child’s iTunes or Google Play account. As a parent, you should be the only person authorized to download apps to that device. Moreover, once an app is downloaded, there might be another 15 minutes that would allow your child to download other apps without your knowledge. As you will see in the video link, you can control when a password is needed – and whether a 15-minute window for downloading an app is appropriate for your family. We suggest that a password is always required with each download of an app,
We can’t emphasize this enough — don’t give the device back to your child until you’re confident it will require your password for any additional app downloads.
This is important since many apps are available that hide other apps from parents. Often these “stealthy” apps are used to hide photos, text messages and videos from parents and other adults. In our most recent survey, almost 20% of teens are using these ghost or vault apps.
Once this app is on their device it might be difficult to find. If you haven’t been following this approach you should go back over your purchase history on iTunes and GooglePlay to see what apps might have been purchased. You can learn more in the video below.
4) Use Parental Controls
Most parents don’t have great confidence in their carrier’s parental controls. If you fall into that category – you have several options – each of which is likely better than those provided through your carrier.
There are many on the market that monitor your child’s activity, including my favorite, BARK. Although BARK and other controls won’t manage your router – it will arm you with a robust dashboard that familiarizes you with your child’s activity and warns you of any risky or inappropriate online interactions. The cost is less than $10 per month and is all web-based. As such, there is no software that you need to download to your phone, PC, or tablet.
Photos and videos that are uploaded to most social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and others will be viewable by you. However, it will not provide your child’s activity on SnapChat, Kik, and Whatsapp. However, you can learn more about the apps supported by Bark in the video below.
Other parental controls can be found in this most recent publication by PC Magazine. Most of the controls listed have strengths and weaknesses. However, more than likely, each parental control company likely paid the publisher for consideration.
By now you’re exhausted, thinking, “Why did we buy that stupid device for our kids? Who knew it could be so difficult?” From my perspective, technology is an excellent thing for our society – and tremendous for your child. However, it does require management. It does require tough decisions – that impacts the entire family.
You might have one child that you would trust to always do the right thing at age 14. You might have a 17-year-old child you wouldn’t trust to send an email. That’s why understanding the technology – and how it can best be managed is so essential.
Good luck to you, and please let us know how this article might have helped you.