As we discovered while researching recent bestseller Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide fear of the unknown often leads well-meaning and concerned adults to outlaw, block or ignore new developments in hopes that the perceived problem will simply go away. But guess what? The Internet isn’t going anywhere. Parents, like kids, are better served by willingly immersing themselves in new tools and technologies.
Not only do firsthand studies help you better understand where potential upsides and downsides, or misuses of the technology in question lie – they also provide a sense of perspective as to how kids’ actually utilize the platform or product in question, and give a more accurate picture of age-appropriateness based on children’s individual development levels. Likewise, in the case of questionable content, such efforts can also help you steer sprouts’ interests towards healthier and more suitable choices.
But homework isn’t just for kids – you’ve got to make a running commitment to education as well. Only by actively taking an interest in and researching new developments, features and upgrades can you hope to keep abreast of the dozens of new services, apps, games, gadgets and online destinations that launch weekly – all of which offer myriad options for connecting, communicating and interacting or sharing information.
Obviously, you’re never going to be able to mirror and monitor every aspect of your child’s online activity, but you should at least be familiar with all the services, tools and technologies that they use. Additionally, take advantage of privacy settings and parental controls. You may be surprised to find that there many utilities exist that can help you better manage kids’ screen time and high-tech interactions’ with minimal time and effort.
Similarly, if you purchase new technology items, read associated safety information and utilize it. “All too often we hear that parents buy items and hand them to their kids [without doing further research, which could have easily prevented issues],” says Laurie Nathan of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. For example, handheld gaming systems such as the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita can access the Internet, yet many parents don’t realize this.
Happily, more resources than ever are available at one’s fingertips to research new hardware, software and multimedia developments, from manufacturer websites to professional third-party reviews, video demonstrations and complementary hands-on trials. And even if your mobile device or cable provider doesn’t make the use of parental controls and privacy settings simple or clear, the truth is that if you do visit a manufacturer’s website, or search online, there’s usually considerable information available geared towards parents. Frequently, answers to common queries are just one Google search away – after all, odds are you’re not the only one asking these questions.
If you’re not doing so already, you might consider following a few key Internet safety experts on social media services as well. Doing so can keep you updated on the latest developments and hot-button issues that pertain to technology and families.
To learn more, don’t forget to check out Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide as well.