As a working mom of two, I have been more reliant on technology than I would like to admit. We live in a time where technology dominates our lives. The pandemic has changed the way both children and adults use the internet. Most of our children have used technology to learn, be entertained, and connect with family and friends. Now that children are on their computers more often, more screen time comes with risks that all parents should be consider and monitor.
Most school-aged children have some sort of technology easily accessible to them and use online sites such as YouTube and numerous social media sites like TikTok, Instagram, and SnapChat, or popular gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Minecraft. This easy accessibility gives your child the ability to connect with others they may not know or engage in content you don’t approve. Allowing access to some or all of these media platforms may or may not be something you allow your child, but it is important to determine what you will allow and then set up some ground rules for your family usage. Setting technology guidelines may be difficult as there is much to consider. The best way to do this is by creating and implementing a “Family Technology Plan.” This plan outlines how technology is used within your home. You can consider utilizing a template online. One I found helpful is from the American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan.
Here are some areas all parents should consider when setting up a family technology plan.
1. Technology Dangers –Determine what dangers your family should be aware of and discuss them. Watch for signs that technology may be negatively affecting your child.
• Connecting with strangers – Most children don’t seem to see an issue with someone they don’t know requesting to be their friend on a video game or social media. The more followers you have on most media platforms, apparently, the more popular you are. It is so important no matter your child’s age, to remind them of one simple rule – if you don’t know the person don’t “friend” them online.
• Overuse – Is your child experiencing issues with school, sleep, or communication? If so, consider how much computer usage they are getting and if it should be modified.
• Cyberbullying – This is a major issue our children face today. If your child feels they are being bullied online, they should bring it your attention or an adult they trust.
2. Limit Usage and Apps Allowed – Determine how much time your child should have online and what apps or technology you’re allowing them to use.
• Usage limits – What is an appropriate amount of screen time for your child’s age? You may consider consulting their pediatrician or research it online. Most phones or tablets have technology or applications (apps) that can be downloaded to help with limiting use. For example, there is a setting on your child’s iPad to turn off all apps after 1 hour. You should consider utilizing one of these applications if you are having a hard time limiting use.
• Apps and downloads – What types of apps are you allowing your child to use? You can restrict your child from downloading new apps without your permission. If a child wants to download a new game on their tablet, a request can be sent to a parent or caregiver to review for appropriateness and approval/denial. For example, if you have an iOS device (Apple) you can easily lock down downloads under the family feature for free. There are also many apps out there you can download. A couple great ones can be found in the App Store such as, Parental Control App-OurPact or Parental Control App-Famisafe.
• Earning usage –Consider having your child earn screen time by completing chores, exercising or completing homework.
3. Create Technology Free Zones and Times – Setup times and places where technology is not allowed.
• Tech free times and places – Consider no technology when eating at the table or in bedrooms. Setup a block or blocks of time when technology cannot be used daily.
4. Monitoring Device Activity – Set up a time to monitor the technology being used to ensure appropriateness and safety.
• Be involved – It’s also important to discuss with your child that if technology is going to be used, you as their parent will be monitoring it. Monitoring will have a different meaning for everyone, but it is highly suggested that text messages, email, social media and gaming discussions be reviewed. All online activity monitoring is important.
Every family is different and like everything in our lives there should be balance when it comes to your family’s technology use. By creating a Family Technology plan, you can ensure everyone feels ownership of the plan and understands the importance of how and when they should be utilizing their time online. Building responsible digital citizens is an important part of parenting. ◙
About the Author Erin Hang
Erin Hang has worked in the security industry for nearly 20 years and is a Senior Director for Fortior Solutions, LLC where she is the company’s subject matter expert in regards to identity and vetting solutions.
She has worked with a number of federal organizations, primarily the U.S. military to help create and enhance government vetting and vendors, contractors and visitors accessing secure facilities.
Erin is a wife and mother to two boys, ages 10 and 13. She is often found on the sidelines supporting her boys in their various sports. She enjoys spending her personal time with friends and family and working out.