I am the tech. person in our home, so I am in charge of monitoring all of the devices and making sure that everything is safe and appropriate. It’s a big job. I spend a lot of time learning the ropes of technology so I can be a a media-savvy mom. As much as I’d like to bury my head in the sand sometimes, I know that is not the right or brave thing to do. I have to approach media issues with resolve – it is a huge part of parenting our kids in this generation.
It is one of the most impactful ways we can reclaim our homes.
So how can we be empowered as parents in the area of technology? How do we, as best we can, remove the thorns? Here are some ideas:
1. Put a filter on every single device. Did you know that most computers have a feature that allows someone to do “private browsing?” That means that their history will not show up, because it is “private.” Many call this the “porn browser.” The same feature is available on Safari on the iPhone. Many parents have no idea that their kids are viewing pornography because they are able to hide any traces of it through the hidden browsing option.
Here are some specific actions we take in our home to keep devices from being able to access inappropriate material, even if just by accident:
*Turn off safari. Upload a secure browser (found in the apps on iTunes), like Net Nanny or Covenant Eyes. These allow for safe browsing on the internet, while blocking inappropriate content.
*Upload Covenant Eyes to your computers/tablets. This is a company that does all of the filtering for you. Parents set the rating of what is allowed to come through on the internet. It also sends a full report of websites visited. Even if you don’t think anyone will view inappropriate material, it gives such peace of mind to know that no one will accidentally stumble upon pornography, or pop-ups that attempt to lure young people into places they shouldn’t go.
*Turn off “Add Apps” in the systems folder. This will require your children to get approval for the apps they want to download.
2. Stay on top of the current technological trends. An outstanding parent resource for media issues is called commonsense media.org. They cover a wide range of topics, and stay on top of the latest and greatest.
3. Use the same technology as your kids, and know their passwords. If your kids Snapchat, you Snapchat. If they Instagram, you Instagram. Learn the language so you can talk to your kids about them, monitor what is happening, and know how they work. Get their passwords so you can get into their account if needed (hopefully you won’t need to).
4. Create “media free” zones. It is healthy for all of us to have a break from constant connection. Designate times of the day or places where no technology is allowed (make sure that the parents abide by this also). For us, one of those places is the dinner table. We also strongly discourage the use of technology when we are all together as a family or as extended family.
5. Put boundaries on usage. Kids do not need to have their devices with them at all times. In fact, it is important for them to learn how to set them down. Each family must decide for themselves what those boundaries will be, but don’t be afraid to make them. For example, we still have phones turned in at night (parents included). This is something that we feel strongly about for several reasons, the most important being a good night’s rest.
6. Spot check. One of our house rules is that parents can check the devices at any time. It’s important for us to keep tabs on what is happening in this virtual world with our kids and that is one way to know.
7. Educate your children on media literacy. This is simply teaching them about cyber bullying, sexting, sub-tweeting, and all of the other issues that can accompany exposure to media.
8. Love the people right in front of you. Make it a general rule that the people who are present in real life take priority over those who are not present.
9. Talk about important issues in person. If you’ve ever had an email that unintentionally created conflict with another person, you understand why. There are no facial expressions, vocal tones, or non-verbal communication indicators when you communicate via messaging. So much gets lost in translation, and on delicate issues, there is an even greater potential for damage.
10. Be Brave. I know that all of this can be hard. And kids push and push, wanting more and more freedom with technology. But believe it or not, children do better when there are limits. Research is backing that kids benefit significantly with boundaries. Long term, it impacts them positively and keeps them out of trouble. When children, and teens specifically, push back, remember this and have the courage to say “no.”
Pick one area listed above
and implement it into your home right now!