Children and Technology: SMHG Special Report

Real Estate

Children and Technology

By Nicholas Eastman, owner of SecuritEase of Sarasota County, Florida.
providing a wide range of services to ensure your business and personal life is secured and protected.

When I was a child, there was the birth of the Internet in the form of Prodigy, Netscape, and AOL. Everyone had an AOL screen-name and that was the way we communicated with each other, “Hey guys, I’ll meet you online and we can talk about meeting up later”. Technology has changed so much since then, is it possible that we are as parents hurting our children by giving them access to things on the Internet? We as parents want to make sure that they do experience the use of Technology as nearly every job out there today uses technology. At the same time, we need to make sure that they experience the technology in a safe and secure manner, here are some key steps to help make sure you are allowing your kids to surf securely.

Education/Communication

The key to protecting kids online is to educate them about the internet and make sure that the lines of communication between you are open in all areas.

First step is to make sure that you are always talking to your children and they are talking to you. Far too often we get caught up in the technology ourselves, relying on others to tell us “What apps are good or bad” or “what is the best kids’ security software”.  While knowing these things are important, using them without talking to your children about why they are in place can create rebellion. The goal is to have your children understand what their choices could potentially do, and why those choices would be right or wrong. In order to get children to behave online as they would in the real world, one should consider setting up rules or expectations with usage of technology. Here are some rules and general guidelines to consider: (Remember, these are only guidelines and can be modified and evolve as kids get older.)

·       Times when they can or cannot go online, and for how long. Apple’s iOS software now will show you “screen-time” usage, broken down to amount of time used on each App.

·       Ask your children who their online friends or followers are, and how they became friends. (consider age when giving social media accounts to kids as well, and understand what the real reason they want a social media account) Do they actually know the people that they are connected to online??

·       Talk about the types of websites they should or should not visit, games that are appropriate or not, and why.

·       Sharing habits, what should be shared and what should be kept private. Children often do not realize that what they post is permanent and public. In addition, they may think they are sharing a secret with just one person, but that secret can easily be shared with the world.

·       Golden Rule in the real world also applies online, Treat others as they would want to be treated.

·       There is no complete anonymity online: there are ways to find out who you are or where you are.

·       People online may not be who they claim to be, know your audience.

As your children get older, one option is to tie these rules to their academic grades, completion of household chores, or how they treat others. Good behavior in the real world, opens more opportunities on the web. Once rules have been created, post them by the family computer or on your child’s bedroom door. Better yet, have them review and sign the document. This becomes a teaching opportunity about contracts and how the real world works.

Technology

In addition to education, there are a plethora of technologies available that can be used to monitor and help protect your children. It has been found that the technical solutions work best on younger children, especially in protecting them from accidentally accessing inappropriate content. However, as children get older, they learn workarounds to the walls you put up. Older kids not only need more access to the Internet, but often use devices that you do not control or cannot monitor, such as those issued by school or computers at a friend’s or relative’s house. This is why education is so important.

Another step, as I have said before, have a dedicated computer just for your kids. This way, they cannot accidentally infect your computer, which you may use for sensitive activities such as banking or taxes. Keeping the computer in a public high traffic area will also help keep their activities monitored. Just because they say they are doing homework does not mean they are actually doing homework. Don’t forget to make sure the computer is secured, routinely backed up and your children DO NOT have administrator rights to it. As far as mobile devices are concerned, consider a centralized charging station somewhere in the house. When everyone goes to bed at night, devices are plugged in at the charging station, this will prevent children from being tempted to use their devices while they should be sleeping.

Leading by Example

Do not forget that these children learn more from us and our actions then what we actually say to them. This means that when you are talking to your child, put down your digital device and make eye contact with them. Digital devices shouldn’t be at the dinner table and never text while driving (this is illegal in many states). Finally, when kids make mistakes, treat each one as a learning experience instead of immediately implementing a punishment. Explain “why” each time and remind them that you are only trying to protect them from dangers they do not understand or cannot see yet. Let them know that you are there to fight for them. If or when they do experience anything uncomfortable online, they can come to you, perhaps even have them take a screenshot to share with you. Make sure that they also feel comfortable approaching you when they realize that they themselves have done something inappropriate. Keeping communication open and active is the best way to keep kids safe in today’s digital world.