If you have attended any of my local workshops or have read any of my content, you know that I’m usually preaching that parents must take charge of their kids use of technology and the Internet. But what sometimes gets missed in my messages is that there are certain things our kids DO need and others they DON’T.
One thing that leads parents to not withholding technology, devices and the Internet is their fear that their kids will be left out and fall behind in the digital age. Some even fear that their kids will lose friends or get bullied if they aren’t online and interacting with their peers.
So, to help parents get it all straight, here are some guidelines on what our children and young teens should be allowed to have and what they shouldn’t. Keep in mind that these are guidelines are not set in stone as some families and situations may require specific modifications.
GIVE YOUR KIDS THIS: A Computer
Keyboarding skills are critical for school age children and a centrally located family computer for your kids and young teens to use is important. It should be set up with a set of rules and limitations on use. The parent should have a discussion on those rules before turning the child loose. They should include a rule on when it can be used, when it should be turned off, and what it can be used for. Parents also reserve the right to look over the child’s shoulder, monitor activity and check out the history from time to time.
NOT THAT: A Smart Phone (or a Cell Phone Too Early)
No child needs an iPhone or Droid in their pocket. Give them one is like giving them an unmonitored computer whenever they want it use it. For those seeking guidelines, if you really think your child needs a hand-held device, children under 13 should not have a cell phone and those under 16 should not have a smart phone. For parents who ignore these guidelines, then at the very least, they should consider monitoring their child’s activity on the device to keep them safe.
GIVE YOUR KIDS THIS: Software
Knowing how to use software programs such as Power Point, Word, Excel and event Minecraft will help your child go a long way in their education and experience. Many entry level jobs require these technology skills. They also engage your child’s creativity and imagination. But like anything else, all good things should be used in moderation.
NOT THAT: Social Media
Just because your kids want a Snapchat or Instagram account, doesn’t mean you should allow them to have one. The use of these apps for social media requires skills our children have not yet developed, such as knowing what information not to share online, knowing who to trust, discerning between a quiz, an advertisement, or a scam, how to protect their privacy, and even how to block, delete, and report predators.
Yes, our children are young digital natives but that doesn’t mean they should have access to everything, anytime they want it. It is our job to keep them safe, to minimize their exposure to digital media, and to teach them delayed gratification. According to Dr. David Greenfield at the Center for Technology Addiction in Hartford, CT, technology in any form, for children and adults, should be monitored, managed, and minimized.