My generation of Gen X is pretty familiar with technology; but I have to say, I can’t keep up with the rapid rate of innovation. Sometimes this leads me to be a bit paranoid when it comes to my children and tech, considering they were literally raised in front of my home office computer monitor at times and sometimes I feel they are much more adept with technology than I am.
Now, I do believe there is a time and place for kids to receive certain information (topics like sex, alternative lifestyles, religion, etc.) that I would like to go over first with my children. So instead of having my children learn by stumbling across said info prematurely, I researched and reached out to friends in the computer science industry to discover how these tech-savvy parents protected their kids.
Separate User Accounts
A good friend of mine works for a successful Technology start-up. His work has him immersed with technology all day long but his home doesn’t reflect his workplace. The tech in his home is much more simple and condensed. He has set up a single kids’ computer that his three children share, in addition to his and his wife’s computers.
Along with establishing set lengths of time that any one child can be on per day, this has allowed my friend to maintain control over what his children can do on the computer. He uses Microsoft Windows’ account setup to set himself up as the administrator account and manage the children’s standard accounts, including the parental controls. He said there is a similar function for Apple computers.
While this arrangement may change as the children age and need to spend more time on a computer completing schoolwork, my friend said there was no reason to not put parental controls on older children’s computers. Even if it is simply to prevent them from downloading things that you haven’t approved.
Go Low-Tech Longer
Many high-profile tech gurus are low tech in their family lives, even folk like Steve Jobs!
Many of these technology career enthusiasts keep their children using basic phones while other children receive smartphones from their parents. Part of reason behind this is the alarming uptick in cyberbullying rates. These parents are well-aware that there are almost uncountable avenues of attack when a child has a smartphone, and not even the best blocking protocols can stop a truly persistent bully.
No Technology In The Bedrooms
This might be a hard one to implement if you already have older children who have laptops and tablets in their bedrooms. But keeping the tech in shared family rooms serves several purposes:
Activity Awareness – Not only are you able to take a quick glance and get a feel for what your children are consuming online, but they will be more aware of what they are browsing. Much like how open office settings make collaboration easier, this allows tech time to blend with family time, without people hiding in their rooms to play games alone.
Better Sleep – The phone buzzes at 3 am because so-and-so is up late and expects that you are too. This happens with adults and definitely happens when teens are bored and up late. By keeping phones out of the bedroom, there won’t be late-nights texting, scrolling through Instagram, less secretive Snapchat opportunities, and set the bedroom aside for other activities (like actually sleeping).
It was difficult for my wife and I; but if you are willing to set the example, your children will fight you less on this particular rule.
I may be just one dad trying to keep my kids safe online, but I hope some of the things I discovered from more tech-savvy parents can help other fellow parents as they try to protect their children from some of the worst things lurking online.