By Joyce Prusak
Executive Director of Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center
According to the National Criminal Justice Training Center (NCJTC), 95% of teens have access to smartphones and 45% report being online almost constantly. And this statistic isn’t for teens only, it’s related to younger children, too. With all the online usage, it’s important to think about online safety and implement technology rules in the household.
Parental approvals, privacy settings
Utilize parental approvals and privacy settings. Parental approvals allow you to see what apps children are interested in. Privacy settings will allow you to focus on location settings and will help you control who your children can communicate with and not communicate with through the apps they are using.
Tech free times and zones
Implement times and zones free of technology in your household. For example, ask your children not to use cell phones in the kitchen and while the family is having dinner. You can also set times that will be tech free – no phones before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m., for example. During tech free times, family members can place their devices at a certain place, on the kitchen counter or in a drawer, for example. Some parents choose to turn off their Wi-Fi at a certain time to limit the usage of devices when children should be sleeping or can’t be monitored. Setting certain tech free zones and times allows children to get used to spending time without devices tempting them to check updates. Tech free times and zones would help children rest better and focus on another activity (having a conversation with a friend, playing, or reading, for instance). An example of a tech free zone is asking your children not to use phones behind closed doors. Tech free zones limit opportunities for risky behavior, such as oversharing or participating in a dangerous online challenge, for example. Tech free zones help establish healthy boundaries, which are essential to ensure children grow up in a safe environment.
These rules are recommendations and can be adapted to the needs of your household. So make rules appropriate for your family and adhere to those rules.
Remember, we, adults, must adhere to those rules, as well, and be a good role model for our children. In situations where you have to make an exception, it’s important to explain to your children why you’re making the exception to keep transparent and honest communications and avoid resentment. We must set a good example.
Focus on behavior, not the app
Focus on the behavior and not the app. With millions of apps available – new apps gain popularity every day – it can be dangerous to only focus on the app and prohibit the usage of certain apps. It’s more appropriate and safe to teach your children what risky behavior is and how certain apps promote risky behaviors. That way, your children will learn to make wise decisions. Encourage healthy online behaviors that can be used across any app and any device. Having conversations about driving positive behavior with your children will help them stay safe online no matter the app or device they’re using.
This information was compiled with the help of National Criminal Justice Training Center sources.
To learn more about child abuse prevention follow Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center on social media. The Coffee County CAC offers free child abuse prevention training to community members. Learn more by visiting www.coffeecountycac.org.