Did you know that you could have a stranger in your home right at this moment that you are completely unaware is present? If you or anyone in your home is communicating online or through texting with someone you do not know personally, then you are opening your home to a stranger. Technology can be a wonderful tool, but it also can open our families, our children included, to new dangers.
A recent poll indicated that 90 percent of middle and high school student have a cell phone. With the growth in technology and the growth in the number of youth using the technology, parents need to add new parenting tools to their tool box. It is important that parents are teaching their children the appropriate way to use the technology and then to routinely monitor to ensure their children are doing so. A local principal sent out an email with great parenting tips regarding cell phone usage, I have added a few ideas of my own.
- Technology contract- Prior to the child being given a device let them know what the expectations are and how you plan to monitor their usage. It might be helpful to put this agreement in writing and get signatures from your child. If they already have one of these items you can still implement a contract.
- Technology schedules- Devices, including cell phones, should be checked in with parents at bedtime to prevent children communicating through the night. Often times it may not be your child that is initiating contact after bedtime, but if a friend does it may still disrupt your child’s sleep.
- Building Accountability-Parents should have username and passwords for all of their kid’s devices and accounts. This should be checked routinely to ensure that your child has not changed the passwords without telling you. Randomly monitor all of their technology. Make sure you are reviewing their text messages, emails, etc. Check the time they send them, who they are corresponding with, and what they are messaging. Check the browser history on the internet browser. See what web sites your child has been visiting. If your child is checking their devices in at night, parents can easily check the daily activity.
- Social networking- Check their social network accounts. If your child tells you they don’t have a Facebook account, it is possible they are not telling you the truth. Almost every middle school and high school student has a Facebook account, instagram account, or some other social network account that we may not have heard of. Review their postings, get your own account and use the parent controls.
- Photos and videos- Check the photos and video files on your child’s devices. Make sure there is nothing inappropriate. And if there is, discuss with them the ramifications of taking some of the photos/videos they might be taking. Check their instagram photos. This is where kids post pictures on the web and make comments about photos. It is important that kids understand that once a photo is posted online or sent in a text message it is in cyberspace forever.
- Apps- Check the Apps they download. Make sure they are appropriate apps, and take the time to know what the apps do. Many apps that kids download are for adults and have tracking devices on them. There are social network apps and dating apps that track the location of the phone. There are no filters or restrictions when kids download an app. It is important to ensure no one is tracking your child.
- IPods and gaming systems- Did you know that iPods now have a camera that takes photos and videos? IPods and many gaming systems, including the hand held ones, are also able to make phone calls and access the internet now. Make sure to check all their devices.
For more suggestions on using technology safely, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail Sarah@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.