Technology Advice and Safety Tips for Kids and Teens

Did your child get a new laptop, smartphone, or other electronic device? This is a good time to educate your child about safety surrounding their device - both online and in the real world. This is also a good opportunity to consider a technology agreement (PSP provides you with one!). This is also a good time to think about your family's policy surrounding social media.

In this article:

General safety tips

A technology agreement

Additional things to consider

Other Resources

 

Voice of experience:

“Technology enters our kids lives simply and harmlessly when we hand a phone or pad to them for distraction. It is cute when the little kids play with tech. Trying to monitor usage and access later, when it becomes a big issue, is lost. It is classic- closing the barn door after the horse has headed for the hills. You have the power to bring tech to them slowly and manage their use of it. It should be a conscious decision about how you do that.”

 

General safety tips to talk about with your kids:

 

  • Don’t give out your full name
  • Don’t give out a real address or any other identifying info
  • Do not meet someone you met online without parents knowing about it
  • Do not go online to sites that cost money
  • Do not give out credit card info
  • Do not respond to online messages that use profanity or are in any way threatening, bullying, or scary
  • Do tell your parents if you see something that doesn’t feel right, makes your uncomfortable or feel hurtful
  • Do protect passwords (don’t share with friends or teacher)
  • Do being thoughtful about copy/pasting or forwarding information to other people
  • Do respect other people’s privacy about posting photos of them. Do NOT post without permission.
  • Do be nice
  • Do respect other people’s work—give credit if you’re using someone’s content (a link to the site you got information, etc.)
  • Do talk about how to stay safe on the street. PSP and the NYPD put together these tips about protecting personal property.

 

Voices of experience: “DO lead by example. Technology is not going away. Keep yourself educated on the latest apps and social networking sites. Emerse yourself. Saying that, if your kid sees you on your phone all the time, they will want to do it too.”

 

Technology agreement:

 

 You might want to consider writing a contract for your child about how and when they can use their new phone or computer. Park Slope Parents has created an agreement you can download HERE to print and sign with your kids.  

We also loved this one mom shared, “Gregory’s iPhone contract.” 

 

Voice of experience: “If I could go back in time, I would educate myself about the pros/cons of the different devices AND create a written policy identifying appropriate use/sites AND have my daughter read/discuss and sign.  I would include the parameters for misuse, too.  BUT, I can't and am now trying to manage an overwhelming variety of devices and endless discussions/negotiations re: screen time/use.”

 

Additional things to consider:

 

  • Where do they use it (only in a space with other family members present? Their bedroom?)

Voice of experience: "I don't have laptops at home. I have 11 and 12 year olds and want to see what they are up to. We have a PC and a Mac sitting on desks in public areas in our homes facing out so I can stroll past at anytime and see what's on the screen. It's not about catching the kids out doing something irresponsible, but seeing what is appearing on the screen and what they are doing and asking them about it. I wouldn't have that opportunity if they had squirreled their laptops into their room.”

  • How often/when can you be on the computer? This one is tricky if they are doing homework on the computer—or have chat open while doing homework on the computer.

Voice of experience: “It seems harmless, but the use of a computer with teens can be a world of pain. You need to monitor and train them in use, etiquette and time management. Time management being the biggest worry and hassle. If they can take it into their room, then you abdicate all oversight, literally. If you have ever looked up from email (three hours later) you know how difficult it is to 'self regulate' online. It will not come naturally to your tween. I am not even talking about the access to adult content or cyber bullying. This is just about screen time.”

  • What time to stop (no laptop/cell phone use after 4pm on a school night)? Where do they store it (in an open place vs. their bedroom)?

Voice of Experience:Our daughter (7th grade) has access to a family laptop, but has not needed to have her own computer. I don't think the type is important, she just needs Internet and word processing. It cannot stay in her room overnight, and on the topic of screens, her phone must be on the kitchen counter at its recharging station by 9PM every night, no exceptions.”

  • When can you use it (only after homework is done? Chores? Other?) 

Voice of experience: “If the computer is anchored to a spot in a public place where you can see the screen when you are putting dinner together (and they can't easily carry it into their room) you will all be a lot happier.”

  • What types of activities can you do or sites can they explore ("YouTube can take you down some scary rabbit holes," says one mom). What about online chatting (do you need to know who they are chatting with?
  • Are any sites off-limits? What are they? And why?
  • Are any social media sites allowed?

For what it’s worth, did you know that there is a minimum age requirement for all social media sites?
13 is the minimum age requirement for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, Snapchat and Secret.
14 is the minimum age requirement for LinkedIn
16 is the minimum age requirement for  WhatsApp
17 is the minimum age requirement Vine

  • You might also include what YOU as a parent might do (or not do). Do you reserve the right to check your kids’ history?  (Do you make an agreement that they are not allowed to erase their history?) Can you check their email? Their Instagram activity?  Do they have to make you a friend/follower on the sites they join?
  • Will you install screen monitoring software?

Voice of experience: “We're trying out an app that monitors your kids computer time and limits it according to your specifications: http://www.timesupkidz.com/  They have a 30 day free trial.  It has alleviated some stress, although it doesn't address other screens such as phone or TV.  We have established that phone use (other than texting) counts as computer time and that seems to have helped.”

 

Other resources:

 

Common Sense MediaCommon Sense Media

Voice of experience: "https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ Is my go to source for reviews and ratings for Apps." and "Common Sense Media is such a great resource for exactly this and also for books, movies, and shows. You can download their app, put in the ages of your children, and then search for age appropriate, highly recommended apps or games. You can also just search for things on their website. They use a star system to rate each app or movie or whatever for educational value, sex, language, consumerism, violence, positive role models, positive messages, and drinking/drugs. They provide an overview of the content and a super useful "What Parents Need To Know" description. I use it every time we have a family movie night and have found some really great apps too."

 

More articles in the Technology and Kids section:

Setting Cell Phone Guidelines

Advice on Limiting Screen Time

Coping with screen time and anger issues

 

Useful articles in the Safety section:

13 Tips for Personal Property Safety from the NYPD & PSP

Staying Safe on the Streets: Precautions Against Mugging & Sexual Assault