April 17, 2015

5 Low Tech Tips For Monitoring Your Kid’s High Tech Life

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Low Tech Tips High Tech Life

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For those of us in our 40s with kids who are on the cusp of becoming teens, when it comes to social media and the online world of teens we are, in some ways, our parents. All those times we said we’d do things differently, and tried really hard not to hear the words of our parents coming out of our mouths? We may have found our breaking point. Social Media.

In many ways, figuring out what kids do when they’re staring down at that glowing screen is like our parents trying to figure out how to get the VCR to stop flashing 12:00. It didn’t matter how many times we explained to them how to fix the clock, at some point they gave up on understanding how it worked. Except, that now the consequences of the ‘head in the sand’ option can be grave.

It’s nearly impossible for every parent to stay up-to-date on what sites and apps their kids are using. Not only does it change as the kids get older, what’s hot today may be totally lame tomorrow. Do kids even say “totally” any more?

Anyway, it may be impossible, but it’s our job because if we don’t try to stay informed someone else will come along and do it for us. Just like those kids we went to school with who seemed to have all the freedom in the world, we may have been envious but we knew they were up to no good.

Today, though, our kids don’t have to sneak out of the house to find trouble. Trouble sneaks in to our house through these hand-held devices. And just like when we rolled our eyes and rigged the VCR, if we ask our kids to explain the apps and websites to us they’re not going to tell us how they really work.

I don’t expect you to sign up for every social media website or app out there. It’s a full-time job for people to monitor social media. But it’s also a full-time job to parent. And at a time when our kids are gaining more and more independence, they are also very vulnerable.

Using these 5 low-tech tips to stay on top of your kid’s technology, you’re more likely to create appropriate barriers while breaking some down. We can no longer use the excuse of not understanding technology when it comes to parenting. It’s constantly changing, I know. But the risks for our kids are just too high to let the VCR keep flashing 12:00.

5 Low-Tech Tips To Stay On Top of Your Kid’s Technology

1. Set Parental Controls – Chances are the kids can override your settings, but if you’re in charge of their device then it has to be your rules. For each device, setting up parental controls is a little different so you may need to search for how it’s done on your specific device. Many carries, Verizon included, offers safeguards and controls at the carrier level so you don’t have to worry about the kids turning them off when you hand them back the device.

2. Set Ownership Rules – While some may want their child to pay for their phone or service, I have a slightly different perspective. I’ll pay for it because then it’s mine and I get to make up all the rules! Even if your child does pay for their phone, as a parent it is your right to know what’s going on.

3. Know the Tricks – Just because they approve your friend request doesn’t mean you’re actually seeing what they’re doing. Positive looking (or sounding) comments may not be what they seem. Online bullying, especially among girls, is very subtle.

4. Anonymity May Cause Poor Judgement – There is a level of anonymity provided by social networks that causes people to lower inhibitions, make choices they may not if their identity was known, or engage in inappropriate conversations. We have no guarantee that the person on the other side of the screen is who they say they are. Even as adults, we have to put our trust in the people and platform. But as children, despite them not wanting to be seen as such, they are just not equipped to grasp the nuances or see the warnings we would see. There are stories on the news daily about situations where an adult using social media has lost their job, had their kids taken away, had their house trashed, etc. It’s hard enough for adults to figure this out, know that it’s a million times more difficult for kids.

5. Ask Questions – This isn’t about interrogating the kids. It’s more about having a conversation to let them know you’re interested, you’re aware, and you’re there if they need you.

Don’t be afraid of the alphabet soup language kids use to text and communicate. Don’t take a hands-off approach to monitoring because it seems intrusive. And don’t think that just because your kid is a good kid, or would never bully or be mean or rude that you don’t have to pay close attention. Sometimes the good kids are the most vulnerable.

What other low-tech ways do you monitor what your kids do online?

Sara

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