This holiday season, millions of children will be dreaming of receiving this year’s top tech gadgets that they’ve placed on their wish list. If you’re one of the millions of parents who will be purchasing one of these gifts this year, it’s important that you prepare yourself before going out and purchasing one. Considering all of the pros and cons of bringing an internet-connected device into your home is the most important step in the purchasing process. Ask yourself if your child is ready for the responsibility and how you can best prepare them to safely use their new device.
Is Your Child Ready?
When gifting an internet-connected device to your child, start by asking yourself whether or not they are truly ready for one. Introducing technology into your home is a large responsibility for both you and your child. If you ultimately decide that they need more time to mature before receiving a gift of this nature, know that this is okay. Sure, it may be hard when your child is angry that they did not receive a shiny new tech gift under the tree and decide to take that anger out on you. Remember however that just because your child’s best friend is getting a smartphone for Christmas, it does not make you a bad parent for choosing to wait until they are truly ready for one. One day, they will understand why you made that choice.
Kids need time to simply be kids. Technology can cause many issues such as addiction, sleep impairment, exposure to inappropriate material, a disconnect in relationships, and even anxiety and depression. Though limited technology usage is not likely to be harmful and can even be beneficial in some cases, it’s important to wait until the timing is right to introduce it. Going outside and playing, getting exercise, and socializing are extremely necessary for your child’s mental and physical development. Don’t interfere with that too early.
Secure the Device
If you have determined that your child is age appropriate and responsible enough for an internet-connected device.. congratulations step one is complete! The next step is to prepare the new device both externally and internally from any potential harm. Let’s face it – children can be reckless and accidents are bound to happen. However, taking the necessary measures needed to protect the device can help to lengthen the investment you’ve made on it. Items such as screen protectors and durable cases are always worth the few extra dollars. These will help to prevent the device from shattering, cracking or getting scratched while your child uses it. Other suggestions for protection depending on how comfortable you feel having your child freely use the device are: locks to prevent theft and/or a stylus for more delicate screen touches.
Protecting their new device from an internal standpoint is crucial as well. Take the extra time to set up the device with the necessary features needed to keep your child safe before wrapping it and placing it under the tree. Children are at a higher risk of being exposed to the dangers of the internet when they are not properly educated or protected. Start by securing your home’s wifi system by operating over a virtual private network (or VPN). This will mask your internet protocol (IP) address during any online activities your family participates in to prevent anyone or anything harmful from accessing your devices. This is one of the best defense mechanisms against malware and hackers. Always set passcodes on your child’s devices and consider installing parental controls. They can be a useful tool for helping you monitor their activity and to also limit screen usage. For safe web browsing and emailing try our Kids Email program for free – it’s the best way to keep them protected while still letting them have their freedom!
Encourage Open Communication
For many families, the issue of limiting screen time can be the root cause of several arguments that take place. Because of this, it’s important to start the conversation around safe and healthy online habits early on in their introduction to technology. We highly suggest having your child sit down and create a set of rules and guidelines that both of you can agree upon. Having your child give input and final sign off will make the transition into following through with these rules go more smoothly.
As your child grows older and is exposed to more content online, encourage an open line of communication. Your child should always feel comfortable notifying you when something seems malicious or inappropriate online. Be on a careful lookout for the signs of cyberbullying as this can turn into a serious situation should your child avoid telling you about it. Let them know that you are here to listen and support them. Being a media mentor to your child will help put your mind at ease and them on a track towards practicing safe internet habits.