Three tips for parents to keep their kids safe online
“With or without any social media, you have everything that you need to be a bright light and to succeed in the world that you live in. The most important part of your entire life is inside of you. It's you. It doesn't matter what phone you have or don't have. It doesn't matter who's doing what on social media. You are more powerful than any gadget, social media, TikTok trend, or anything. You are enough! No gadget, no bit of electronics and devices will ever replace the power and magic that is you.” - Jennifer Jolly
Growing up in the 80s meant very little technology for my parents to monitor or worry about. However, in today's world, parents need to stay vigilant about their children's day-to-day activities, as well as the ones online.
I spoke with tech-life columnist Jennifer Jolly on my podcast recently, and here are some of her top cyberspace safety tips:
1. Age-appropriate technology
Jolly pointed out that allowing children access to age-appropriate technology should be in line with all the other precautions that parents take to keep their children safe.
For instance, just like parents would never think of teaching our children to swim by tossing them off a cliff into the ocean, or teach them how to ride a bike by sticking them on a 10-speed and saying good luck when it comes to technology, parents should help their kids starting with baby steps.
Jolly emphasized that parents need to be aware of their children's brain development, which is why they shouldn't hand over an iPhone to a toddler or grade school child, and just wait on the iPhone. Instead, parents need to start with something that has a child-based user interface, such as Gabb phones and watches, where the entire operating system is built for children, which is age appropriate and teaches them to use the training wheels before they ride that bike, so to speak.
2. Parents should model good internet behavior
When parents are role models regarding their use of technology, the children learn by example, such as not allowing phones at the dinner table, or not being on the phone during family time and conversations.
Besides modeling good behavior, parents need to put healthy boundaries in place for the protection and safety of their children, as well as make sure that children won't remember their parents as stuck at work 24/7 behind their phones or screens.
3. Moderation is key
Like everything in life, moderation is key.
Jolly emphasized that it's not healthy to wake up or go to bed to that phone.
"It's just not good for us and for our brains. And the people who make this technology know that the Bill Gates of the world don't let their kids have all this unfettered access to the internet. No, they limited their control about it. And we have to really buckle down and be better about that ...Otherwise, we're going to keep getting these results that aren't healthy for our kids. So unmonitored access to social media and to the internet is dangerous at a lot of ages in childhood." - Jennifer Jolly
By taking a look at the statics in Technology and Children, one can tell that parents have a big fight to win against the engulfing effects of technology on their children:
- Children spend an average of 7.5 hours a day engaging in technology. (Kaiser Foundation 2010)
- More than 7.5 million American children under the age of 13 have joined Facebook. (Consumer Reports)
- More than 90% of American children have an online history by the age of two. (Consumer Reports)
- More than 50% of American children regularly interact with a computer or tablet device by the age of five. (Consumer Reports)
- Many children regularly play video games by the age of eight. (Consumer Reports)
- Teenagers text an average of 3,400 times a month.
- For every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play. (Pediatrics Association)
According to Jolly, parents have a difficult job limiting their children's time online, but she recommends the following measures and solutions to parents:
1. Limit and monitor children's use of technology and social media from the router.
2. By using apps like Bark, parents can exercise their custodial options to monitor their children's activity, text messages, social media, and more. Plus, they can block & filter other content & apps, set screen time limits, and more.
3. Self-monitor and self-control are key in balancing technology in our daily lives.
Although technology is here to stay, Jolly firmly believes that we have everything inside our souls to succeed in the world.
For more information on online safety, please listen to the full interview on Seeds of Sunshine podcast.
Disclaimer: Seeds of Sunshine is Carmen Micsa's multigenerational podcast that she started together with her daughter.