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A Parent's Guide to Online Technology for the Holidays

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From Wii U, to iPods to DS3 handhelds, an enormous amount of money will be spent on technology for children this holiday season. With these purchases, we as parents also need to be vigilantly aware of what the various technologies are capable of, how to watch what our children are accessing and just what they are able to access with said technology.

Almost all modern gaming systems and electronics have some form of connectivity to the internet. No matter what you are buying for your children, you should ask yourself these two simple questions:

1. Can the device access the Internet (Cellular, Wifi, etc.)?
2. Does the device have parental controls?

If the answer is yes to either question, then you should talk to a professional and learn as much as you can about it and how to control its usage.

Below are some of the more popular requests from children this holiday season along with their 'social' capabilities.

iPad Air and iPad Mini

Few children see these in the Apple store and don't gravitate to them or want one to take home with them. Apple's newest iPad Air and iPad Mini with the all new iOS 7 are great gifts and also very user-friendly for parents to lock down. Just like the iPhone and iPod they have the ability to use countless apps for social networking, browsing and game playing. Here are some of the features that they have:

• Parental controls (Go here to see some advice on my website on how to lock down your iOS 7)
• Social networking
• Internet browsing
• Streaming video/audio (such as YouTube, Netflix, etc.)
• Camera / Photography
• File sharing

Sony PlayStation 4

Combining a killer graphics processor and 8 CPU cores, this gaming console is a must have for many children and adults alike. But, what is this monster capable of doing online and what dangers does it pose for children? The PlayStation 4 (PS4) is fully capable of browsing online, connecting with Facebook, and friending other online friends through the PSN (PlayStation Network). Like its predecessor the PS3, it has an array of parental controls. It also has the capability for master accounts (parents / guardians) and sub accounts (children). The number one mistake parents do with these accounts is let children setup the master account as their account, thus giving them the power to control the parental controls. Here are some of the features of the PS4:

• Parental controls (Go here to see some advice on my website on how to lock down your PS4)
• Social networking
• Internet browsing
• Streaming video/audio (such as YouTube, Netflix, etc.)
• Camera: The PlayStation camera is not for video chat, it is designed to watch the movements of the player to provide an additional capability of control.

Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo's newest and most talked about system since the original Wii system released in 2006. The Nintendo Wii U (released in 2012) also has the motion sensing "Wiimote" (Wii Remote) capabilities that the original system did but is highly enhanced having its own rechargeable tablet style Wii U GamePad with a touchscreen. This new GamePad adds a whole new level of sophistication to Nintendo's lineup offering the ability to take a game with you elsewhere in the house using the Off-TV Play function. It also has a camera built into it for motion support and video-chat with other Wii U users. Like the other two technologies listed above, they also have parental controls as well as an array of other features. Here are some of the Wii U features:

• Parental controls (Go here to see some advice on my website on how to lock down your Wii U)
• Social networking
• Internet browsing
• Streaming video/audio (such as YouTube, Netflix, etc.)
• Camera - Used for video chat and added motion control

Nintendo 3DS
A wonderful portable gaming system with its roots founded in the good ole' Gameboy that many of us grew up with. The Nintendo 3DS is far more advanced than the early predecessor, with the ability to browse the web, email, and oh right... it plays games too. One major downfall of this device is the fact that its parental controls are limited. Parental controls are either on or off, there is no advanced or filtering capabilities. That being said, here are some of the Nintendo 3DS features:
• Parental controls (Go here to see some advice on my website on how to lock down your DS3)
• Social networking
• Internet browsing
• Streaming video/audio (via the eShop)

Use Your Head When Your Children Have Technology
As always, parent with a sound mind. Just because you have locked down your child's device, doesn't mean that they should be free to wander off to a corner of the house with it unsupervised. Don't let your children be on their electronic devices unsupervised at any time. Their electronics should be a distraction for fun or educational purposes, not a babysitter and most definitely not a substitute for a loving parent.