For parents hoping to make technology a healthy part of life for kids, it's essential to not only speak with children about online safety and digital citizenship, but also make it a running conversation. Open and honest dialogue isn't just the cornerstone upon which trust is founded, it's also a vital tool around which to build empathy, foster meaningful discussion and create a positive home environment in which questions and concerns can be productively addressed.
When speaking with kids about technology, it's important to discuss a number of topics, including which high-tech gadgets and devices are allowed in your home; when it's appropriate to use them; which forms of content are appropriate for consumption; how all may be consumed and the rules which will govern the usage of these options. Note that discourses shouldn't focus solely on tools, hardware and software either -- they should also extend to healthy computing habits, good decision-making and being responsible digital citizens.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself and your family when contemplating the subject:
- What devices are we using to access the Internet?
- How and in what ways are we using this online access?
- What types of activities, sites and interactions do we like to engage with online?
- What websites and services do we frequent often and why?
- What are our house rules with regards to the use of high-tech devices and Internet connectivity?
- What punishments will be meted out should they be violated?
- What times are designated to be free of high-tech devices?
- What is our family's password policy?
- Have we implemented parental controls and privacy restrictions?
- Will we be monitoring children's online access? How so?
- What should we do if you we encounter questionable and/or inappropriate content or behavior online?
- Do we understand the capabilities of all high-tech devices present in our home?
- Do we know where to turn if we have questions about any technology service or product, or need the help of a qualified professional?
- Is screen time an inherent right or earned privilege? How much will be allowed daily?
- What areas of the home are designated for high-tech use?
- What are our rules for appropriate high-tech usage?
- Are we aware of the basic safety rules that must be observed when using technology?
- Do we know what it means to be responsible digital citizens?
- Have we as a family made a running commitment to educate ourselves about new technology trends, topics, products and services?
- Do we all feel comfortable turning to each other for help if we have any questions?
Note that from McAfee to Lookout, Kaspersky and Trend Micro, many anti-virus providers also provide family safety centers and helpful tips on their websites, as do operating system makers such as Microsoft. Parents looking to make technology a fun and positive part of kids' lives would do well to take advantage of these resources.