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Is it Safe to Share Your Tech With Your Kids?

Thanks to Microsoft for sponsoring this post. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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Tablets and phones loaded with great apps for your kids can be a lifesaver. Whether it’s the app that makes it possible for you to get through the supermarket with your impatient toddler, or the one that makes a four-hour roadtrip with your fourth-grader fun, when you need it, you need it!

But whose device do you hand to your kid? You don’t want your toddler accidentally Skyping with your boss, or your third-grader reading or seeing a sensitive text. How do you prevent your teens from viewing inappropriate content via your (uncensored) tablet? All of these concerns cohabitate with the fear of your precious device being lost in a bin of LEGOs, dropped, spilled on, etc.

It’s a classic dilemma for modern parents: Do you load your kid’s apps on your device, or do you buy your children their own?

Fortunately Windows has come up with solutions for busy parents that make it easier to share, and simple to set up a dedicated device just for your children to use. Family Safety  makes it easy to create multiple user profiles and keep your kids safe online. Some of the features Family Safety offers:

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  • Web filtering—Control the categories of websites your kids can view, or specify individual sites they may or may not access. SafeSearch is turned on for search sites such as Bing.
  • Activity reports—Get reports on your kids’ computer use: the websites your kids have visited or tried to visit, time spent on computers, and the games and programs they’ve used.
  • Time restrictions—Limit the amount of time your kids use the computer, and specify the times of day they can use it.
  • Game restrictions—Limit the games your kids can play.
  • Program restrictions—Limit the programs your kids can run.

There’s a handy video on how to set up parental controls. I did a walkthrough at the Microsoft Store, and got my Surface all set up for me and kids to share.  I knew my kids would be psyched to have their own log ins and avatar photos, and that they would feel proud to have control over what apps they curated in their space on the tablet. We’ve set up the same system on our Windows computer as well.

But what about cell phones, you ask? 

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There’s a simple solution for cell phones, too. I’d already played around a bit with Kid’s Corner on my previous Windows Phones, and took the time to fully set it up on my new Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone, prior to ever letting my kids get their hands on that beauty!

Kid’s Corner for Windows Phone allowed me to get my cell phone all set up for my 5-year-old son to play, at a moments notice, without any fear of him accidentally deleting my apps, e-mailing, texting or calling my friends (or clients… eep!). Believe me, we’ve experienced all of the above on other phones in the past. There’s only so much you can blame on “butt dialing.”

I love that with Kids Corner you can put all your kids in one somewhat fenced in area of the phone.

Accessing the content there is just a matter of tapping and swiping. Once you access the Kid’s Corner, you can hand the phone to the kids and they will stay in that “area,” unable to access all the other apps and features of your phone. You will have to return to the lockscreen and enter your password to get back to your other content.

I’m so glad that I was able to configure my Surface and Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone  for sharing with my kids, because some amount of sharing is inevitable around here. My kids are pretty respectful when I tell them “hands off,” but I still like to be able to hand them my tablet or phone to play a game when we’re stuck waiting at an appointment, or stuck in traffic.

I have to admit it though: I still personally prefer having  separate devices. I’ve scrimped and saved to be able to provide each of my kids a device (or two in the case of the teens) of their own. 

While I like to have a few “emergency kid apps” on all my own devices, I don’t like to fill up my tablets and phones with their stuff and they feel the same. My older kids use computers and tablets constantly both for schoolwork and entertainment activities. Sharing gets harder as the kids get older and have assignments to do online. All of my kids love having their own tablets and/or smart phones. It might not be right for all families, but we have made the choice to invest in tech for all of our kids. We still set limits and use parental control features on the devices they own and have strict rules about how and where our precious tech devices can be used. We invest in good cases for all our gear.

Thus far, my kids have been really responsible with their devices and mine. I’ve been proud of how they use them.

My only real issue is that they now like my Surface better than the tablets they already had.

We’ll have to fight it out!

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