Children today seem to grasp technology almost effortlessly and it's sometimes hard for parents to keep up. But keep up, you must -- not only to protect your child from dangerous content -- but to enjoy all that technology has to offer. Technology can offer exciting, educational experiences for both you and your child. Teachers and schools are using technology to teach advanced subjects in engaging and stimulating new ways. Make technology a family affair and reap the rewards.
There are literally millions of educational, high-quality web sites and apps available to parents and kids, all for the taking. There's also a lot of inappropriate content, as well. Install a filter on your Internet and keep the computer in a common room, rather than bedrooms. Talk with your kids frankly about what's okay and what's not. Anything featuring explicit language, sexual images, violence or crudity is off limits. Teach your kids how to check app, video game, music and movie ratings. Teach your child how to say no to inappropriate media with friends. Your child can change the subject, go to another room or directly approach the issue with a comment, such as, "This site makes me feel yucky. Let's do something else."
Kids are spending more time in cyber space than ever before. In fact, as of 2009, kids age 2 to 11 made up almost 10 percent of the online world, according to Common Sense Media. Social media, chat rooms and forums can offer a place to meet, make friends and exchange ideas, but they can also put your child in potentially dangerous situations. Your child might be exposed to cyber bullies, sexting or even child predators pretending to be a friend. Teach your child that people might not always represent themselves honestly online. Monitor and limit social media and teach your child to never post any private information, including her real name, address, phone number or other identifying information. If a situation seems confusing or uncomfortable, she should come to you right away.
Whether you're a parent or child, media can be addictive. It's easy to waste hours caught up in social media, a video game or Internet surfing, at the expense of hobbies, outdoor activities, homework and family time. Kids between ages 8 and 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours per day involved with technology, according to Common Sense Media, and adults are just as likely to abuse technology, according to psychologist and professor, Sherry Turkle, author of "Alone Together." Limit media exposure to two hours per day or less and set a timer. When the time's up, turn it off. Insist on "no media" zones, such as no media allowed at dinner time or bedtime. Make sure you're really connecting with your kids. Turn off the phone, look them in the eye and listen to what they're saying.
Your child probably can recognize truly dangerous or inappropriate content, but he might not know how to differentiate between high-quality content and "junk food" media. Look at reviews for apps and games and offer some standards in choosing media. High-quality media should teach new skills or facts, in addition to being entertaining. The graphics and music should be of high quality. Apps should be well-organized and easy to use. Media should be inspiring, rather than degrading. Help your child learn to use technology as a useful tool instead of a time waster.
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