Expert Tips for Parenting Tech-Savvy Kids

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed in the ever-changing, ever-growing worlds of technology and media?

Most parents today work hard to find a proper balance between keeping up, and staying ahead of the kids. With gadgets like cell phones that can access the Internet, and video game consoles as powerful as yesterday’s home computers, and with all of this increased exposure to media, how can we make sure that our children are only being exposed to appropriate content?

Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to help our children and teens navigate the worlds of technology and media.

Consider the tips below, for all ages and stages of parenthood, and when you’re ready to learn more, head over to the Technology and Media sections of ParentFurther.com, where you’ll find more tips and research-based advice on popular media and technology topics like social networking, mobile technology, and video game addiction.

Tips for . . .

  • Television: Limit screen time to 2 hours a day or less for children over the age of 2. Pediatricians recommend no screen time for children under 2. Practice “appointment” television. Use your TV guide, and decide in advance what’s good to watch.
  • Cell Phones: Pay attention to the messages you model—stay off the cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), and other electronic devices when you’re driving or engaged in other activities that deserve your full attention.
  • Online Safety: Content blockers and filters are great tools to use with younger kids. They allow you more control over where they go and what they do online. A content blocker blocks sites with explicit material or limits a child’s search to a predetermined set of sites. A content filter scans sites and images and blocks those that contain certain words, key phrases, or content.
  • Cell Phones: Some single parents and working parents find it essential for their young child to get a kid-friendly cell phone that can be programmed with five numbers (such as for home, your work, the next-door neighbor, grandparents, and another significant adult). It’s a great way to have your child check in with you to let you know he or she caught the bus or has safely gotten home.
  • Online Safety: Remember that not all adult sites post an industry rating that can be identified by blocker, filter, or tracker software. That’s why it’s important to talk to your kids about what to do when something inappropriate or scary pops up.
  • Television: Watch what your kids watch. Talk about what they’re seeing. Ask provocative questions such as, “What do you think of that character drinking all that alcohol?” State your values clearly. “I don’t like it when people swear. I don’t want you to swear either.”
  • Cell Phones: Just because your child has a cell phone doesn’t mean that you know where your child is (or that you’ll be able to get a hold of him). The batteries can run out. Kids can call and say they’re at the library when they’re actually at a friend’s house. Cell phones are not foolproof. Talk about the importance of honesty.
  • Online Safety: Consider tracking software for older teenagers. This software enables you to see which sites your children have visited, tracking their path online. This tool gives young people more freedom to explore the Internet, but it also allows you to verify that they are using the internet responsibly. Let your teenagers know that you trust them, but that you will be periodically verifying that they are visiting appropriate sites online.
  • Cell Phones: Talk to your kids about “sexting” (sending sexually-suggestive photos or comments through text messages). Make sure they understand that sexually inappropriate language and pictures are not allowed.
  • Social Networking: Most social networking sites feature strong privacy settings that enable your child to decide which information to share with all other users of that site can see, and which is restricted only to friends. Understanding and using these settings is important not only for your child’s safety, but also to prevent any unwanted embarrassment or vulnerability.
  • Remember: nothing can replace involvement and supervision by adults. Keep monitoring how your kids use the media and technology on a regular basis without becoming an “Internet Cop”.

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