The Progressive Parent’s Guide to Digital Parental Control

February 6, 2016

11:03 am

The modern web-centric world offers plenty of amazing opportunities I wish I had as a teen – quick access to interactive learning materials, stunning visual guides and free courses to master almost anything.  On top, immediate access to my BFFS via social networks, loads of productivity killers and gags that make pretending doing the homework a lot easier.

However, the power of being connected comes with certain risks. Even the most progressive parents I know feel quite reluctant about how their kids use the Internet. These concerns are more than legitimate. According to the recent research published by American Academy of Pediatrics, with the current level of engagement kids become prone to “Facebook depression”, cyberbulling, violence, inappropriate content and sexting.

If we want our kids to grow into well rounded, successful adults, we should prepare them for the online world, just as we do for the real world life.

Build Trust First

Here’s an oh-so-common story: you set up parental control thinking you are showing care for your kid. And the kid – she thinks you don’t trust them and want to aggressively intrude in their personal life.

Before taking any action, sit down and have a talk with your little ones. Explain that you respect their boundaries and trust their judgments. It is the rest of the virtual population, whom you don’t trust as much.

Talk of the cyber attacks and data breaches, and what that means for your kid. Teach them about phishing attacks and how dangerous those could be for your entire family.  Don’t strengthen the fact that you forbid them viewing some content on the web. This would just gauge their curiosity. Instead, explain that there are certain rules of behavior at the Internet and they should follow them for their own good.

Talk About Online Spendings

Another common issue with kids and the web is unsolicited spending. You’ve heard those stories of parents discovering huge credit cards bills for app purchases their little darlings did behind their back.

To avoid such unpleasantries there are a couple of things you can do:

Have a serious money talk with your kids. Explain them that virtual currency is just the same as the actual bills. And those dollars can add up faster than they notice.

Explain that making in-app purchases for games isn’t wise. Here’s one interesting approach a friend of mine adopted. She gave her kid a monthly online spending budget (rather modest) and explained that he can either use it for online game/app purchases; or use it to invite his football team for pizza/go to the movies etc.  While for the first month the kid spent all the funds on apps, for the second he realized that the satisfaction was rather fast fleeing and opted for real-live experiences.

Secure your devices. As your kids still learn the basics on online money management, it’s best to make sure your iTunes and App Store always ask for a password before authorizing the purchase.  Obviously, you should keep the password all to yourself on their devices too.

Set The Time for Work and Play

Together with your kid, create a computer use schedule. Allocate the amount of time they are allowed to spend at the laptop on the weekdays and weekends. That could be easily adjusted with “Time Limits” feature at Parental Control on Mac.

Additionally set the curfew times and inform your kid that it is non-negotiable. Didn’t finish a school project before that? Well, someone will have to get up an hour earlier than to do it.

Give your kid an early lesson on time management – they need to balance their laptop play/work time wise if they want to get things done on time.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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