Guest Post written by Sarah Upton.
Summer is fast approaching, and children are quickly being released from schools all across the nation for their summer vacation. While this might be the best time of the year for them, it can be some of the most worrying months for parents. Our children having infinite free time each day to get into trouble while we are unable to supervise from work is a problem many parents face, and it can be difficult to keep track of what our kids get into while we aren’t home.
When we were growing up, all our parents had to worry about was us coming home with cuts and scratches or bruises, but the with the growing impact of technology in the modern world, many children have access to personal smartphones and computers. Reports from a study by Common Sense Media back in 2013 suggest that three in four children have used a smartphone or tablet by the age of 8, and nearly twenty percent use them on a daily basis. While the access to smartphones and tablets grows by the day, children are getting more and more linked to the internet at all hours of the day.
It can be difficult to monitor what your children are doing all the time even while you’re home, but when you’re at work it is nearly impossible. Many parents stress out all day over what their children are doing online while they aren’t looking, and this is likely to be a problem that affects all of us at some point in our children’s lives. While some parents might want to try limiting their family’s access to technology in an effort to keep them safe, it is becoming far too easy for children to get access through the rest of the community. Here are some tips for how to help your children remain safe while they are wired this summer.
The first step any parent should take with their children is to simply educate them about safe use. Microsoft published an article explaining what to teach your kids, and it is definitely worth taking the time to do if you haven’t already. Many tips seem obvious to adults but are not so for children, such as never sharing your passwords, logging out of websites when using public computers, and not giving out full personal information. Remember that you should set guidelines for what your child can do online—anything posted to the internet can potentially be seen by everyone, even if posted privately, so if you are not comfortable with everyone seeing what your child does, it is time to set stricter rules.
In addition to ordinary parental supervision, there are apps that can assist with the daunting task of tracking your child’s online habits. Verizon Wireless wrote an article about protecting your children online, and they list many helpful apps. They carry helpful tools for parents such as FamilyBase, a service which allows parents to monitor their children’s phone activity and set limits for when and where they can access the web. Not only can this enable you to track their phone use, but you can see which apps they have installed and which apps they use the most. As smartphones are quickly becoming the main source of online connection for children, being able to directly monitor their usage through your mobile provider is the most powerful tool you have.
The article also mentions other apps which are independently published for you to download. One of these apps is MamaBear, which parents can install on their phones for help monitoring their children. This app gives feedback to parents about everything their child does, including where they are and how they are interacting with friends on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. It can even track how fast your teenagers are driving and alert you if they are going above a preset limit! My Mobile Watchdog is similar in practice but also gives parents the ability to monitor their kid’s text and picture messages. It gives parents an email summary of their child’s activity and alerts them if any boundaries are broken, however, it is Android only.
There are many other apps which can give you some control over how your child uses their mobile devices or computer. Even if you do not wish to place hard restrictions upon your family, these apps can still give you the peace of mind you deserve this summer. Rather than limiting your child’s access entirely, simply monitoring them can help you ensure they are using modern technology safely while you aren’t there to supervise. While modern technology has given children greater access than ever to unhealthy sites, it has also empowered parents to know more about their children’s activities and habits.
~ Sara Upton is an avid reader and dog enthusiast. When she isn’t reading or writing, she likes to take long hikes and experiment in the kitchen with new recipes.