When I was little, every year we would get catalogs from a variety of stores showcasing their merchandise. The catalogs were thick with so many options of clothes and toys and books and shoes to add to your Christmas list.
I would spend hours and hours pouring over the pages, ear marking the pages that held something that could potentially make it to my final Christmas list.
I have no idea how kids and teens make Christmas lists these days, but I doubt it’s by catalog….. Although, an Amazon catalog showed up in my mailbox!
Regardless of how your kids built their perfectly curated Christmas list for Santa this holiday season, I would bet most contain some type of electronic toy or device that allows access to the internet.
It’s the world we live in!
With the continual onslaught of new gadgets, parents can’t always stay ahead and know how to fully operate everything our kids get.
However, we can have some basic internet safety rules set up to ensure that our kids have safe boundaries in the online world.
I’m from the generation that had life pre-internet and post-internet. I don’t know exactly how old I was when the internet and cellphones came about. I do remember having the bag car phone and thinking it was so cool. I didn’t get my first cell phone until my sophomore year of high school. It was huge, there wasn’t even text messaging features, and the cost to use it was so astronomical that it was only for emergencies after I learned to drive.
Apps weren’t a thing. Wifi wasn’t a thing.
The growth of technology and the internet has occurred at an overwhelming and bewildering speed in the past few decades. The current level of access children and adolescents have to the vast internet terrifies me!
What terrifies me even more is that I don’t anticipate the growth of technology and the internet to slow down any. So, when my boys are older, it will be an entirely new level!!
In 2017, the average age at which children were getting their first cell phone was 10 years old. According to Brandon Gaille, the number of children between the ages of 6-17 who say they have been exposed to hardcore pornography while browsing online: 42% and 1 in 25 has sent graphic photographs of themselves online at least once.
Internet safety is the key to providing safe boundaries and guidelines.
Thankfully the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County (CAC) is here to help parents in many ways when it comes to child safety. The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Smith County is dedicated to child victims of physical and sexual abuse and strives to reduce trauma through a unified effort that facilitates thorough investigations, effective prosecutions and the healing of the children and their families.
The CAC provided East Texas Moms Blog with some internet safety tips that will prove extremely useful as the holiday season and new gadgets arrive in your homes.
Communication is Key
Make sure to talk with your kids about internet safety. As adults with fully formed brains, we sometimes struggle to understand the vast internet. It’s even more true for children and adolescents. They need our help understanding why internet safety is important. You don’t have to have the perfect words, just have an open conversation about internet safety for everyone.
Make sure to let your kids know that we all need help monitoring our internet and technology behaviors and habits. It’s easy to get lost in technology, so make sure they know you are trying to help set them up for long term success.
Internet Safety Tips
Help them determine an appropriate screen name.
- Make sure there is not identifying information in their screen name such as first or last name, date of birth, age, or location.
Set up a technology curfew.
- Have a central charging station in the parent’s bedroom where kids turn in their devices. Studies have shown that children and adolescents who have electronics (tv’s, computers, phones, handheld devices, gaming devices) stay up later when they have a device in their room.
- No devices in bedrooms, where kids are not being monitored in what they are doing and browsing.
Set time limits.
- Set total daily screen time limits and limits for usage at one time.
- You can do this manually by setting a timer on your own phone or you can download an app to help you in this.
Use Parental Controls.
- Almost all devices that are designed for children have parent controls, so don’t be afraid to set the controls so you can monitor what they can access and what they are doing.
- You can call your carrier and have them assist you in setting parental controls (restrictions, passwords, permission guards) that are free of charge.
- Set parental controls on install apps, in-app purchases, safari, allowed content ratings (you can check the ratings on any app onhttps://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews).
Periodically check your child’s devices.
- Check browsing history and set it up where you can be alerted for suspicious website visits.
- Some kids will go into private browsing history tab on an Iphone so as parents do not know what websites they are accessing. To restrict this go to settings – screentime – content & privacy restrictions-web content-uncheck unlimited restrictions-check limit adult and allowed websites.
- Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok all have a minimum age requirement of 13. If your child is under the age of 13 and has an account on one of these apps, there has been some dishonesty around their age. This can be a good teaching point that just as they have lied about their age, someone else could be lying as well.
- Make sure any accounts that your children have are set to private.
- Monitor the number of friends, likes, re-tweets, shares your child has on any social media platform.
Don’t forget to have fun!
As I mentioned, I am more than a little terrified of what technology will be like when my guys are older. BUT it’s important not to forget that technology is a great tool when used well.
Technology can be a fighting point between parents and their kids, but I encourage you to try to use it as a bonding point and ways to encourage communication with your kids.
From games to play together and memes to share with each other the possibilities are endless with ways you can connect with your children through technology.
I hope that this guide helps you and yours enjoy all the gifts that were shared this holiday season, technology included!!