These days it’s hard to be a responsible digital parent, when technology is changing so quickly. We struggle to get through the day, let alone keep up with all the new tools, sites, and apps being developed — along with rapidly changing texting lingo.
The most recent 2013 Pew Internet Teens and Technology Report states that 95% of U.S. teens use the Internet, 78% have a cell phone, and 47% have a smartphone, meaning that technology is well-integrated into our lives. But with kids back in school and spending less time at home, it’s more difficult for even the most well-intentioned parent to be digitally responsible. Let’s face it — we’ll never know everything, and our kids will probably always be half a step ahead of us, but here’s a quick list of the topics that should be discussed in every home in an age-appropriate way to ensure that everyone is digitally responsible.
Are You a Responsible Digital Parent? 1 of 12
Have you asked your child to teach you about technology you don’t understand? 2 of 12
Why this is important: Kids always love it when they know more than their parents. Asking your child to teach you about technology not only empowers them as the expert, but it allows you to get a glimpse of what they know — while opening the door to have future conversations about important topics like texting, cyberbullying, sexting, etc. that might be hard to discuss or not quite age-appropriate yet.
Helpful resource: Teach Your Child Self-Awareness by Letting Them Teach You Technology on Learning Works For Kids features 4 strategies to use with video games and other technologies to help your kids become better teachers to you, while improving their self awareness.
Do you model the behaviors you expect from your child? 3 of 12
Why this is important: We may chide our kids about their screentime, but why in the world would they listen to us when we're constantly sneaking a peek at our mobile phone when we should be focusing on them, or taking calls during dinner? Model the behavior you want to see.
Helpful resource: Setting Boundaries for Tech-Obsessed Kids on Parent Further is a great read that not only discusses how technology can be a distraction that affects a child's health, but also provides ideas on ways to have a constructive discussion about technology boundaries in your home. In the event that over-dramatic children complain that you're the only house in the world that imposes limits, the article says that 88% of parents agree about the importance of setting boundaries when it comes to technology use in the home.
Have you talked about in-app purchases? 4 of 12
Why this is important: In-app purchases are tricky, and while the iTunes Store does indicate which apps have in-app purchases, the fact of the matter is that our kids unknowingly click to get whatever they need in order to advance to the next level. Before you know it, you've racked up a huge iTunes charge without knowing. While Apple has credited parents' accounts for crazy charges racked up by innocent kids, don't count on your charges being reversed. Have a conversation about what to tap on in an app, what to do when a pop up comes up asking about making a purchase during game play, and don't share your iTunes password.
Helpful resource: NBC News' Technology details the most recent news about the class action lawsuit filed by 5 parents against Apple in 2011 due to in-app purchases.
Do you know their passwords to online and social accounts? 5 of 12
Why this is important: While privacy is important, having a mobile device and access to the internet is a privilege, and with that privilege also comes a certain amount of risk. We want to trust our kids, but can we trust others that they interact with? Some parents are against having their kids' passwords and others believe it's their right. Decide your stance and have a conversation with your kids about the risks and rewards of being online — and if you do make them share their password, talk to them about how you will use it to keep them safe, rather than serve as a spy.
Helpful resource: Online monitoring: Do you know your child's passwords on ParentMap explores this debate to provide you with food for thought about how you want to approach the password issue in your home.
Have you talked about appropriate online and offline behavior? 6 of 12
Why this is important: When we think about appropriate and inappropriate online behavior, we immediately jump to cyberbullying — but even the youngest users of technology need to know what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. Teaching preschoolers and early elementary ages what it means to be a good real-life friend conveys to the online and mobile world as they get older and start to explore online sites and social networks.
Helpful resource: Netiquette: Rules of Behavior on the Internet is a helpful guide to parents of young kids because it outlines appropriate online behaviors that also apply to mobile devices when kids get older. Parents of older children need to read 5 Things You Need to Know About Cyberbullying and When Texting Turns to Torment, both by Common Sense Media.
Are you up on texting lingo? 7 of 12
Why this is important: Texting is the No. 1 form of communication between kids because it allows them to communicate with their friends at any time — but what are they saying? A string of letters may not seem like a conversation, but it is. And chances are you don't know half of what they're saying.
Helpful resource: Not up on the acronyms? Visit NetLingo for The List of Chat Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand, and study up to know what they're really saying and might not want you to know.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you have a smartphone contract in place? 8 of 12
Why this is important: A smartphone contract may seem old-fashioned, but really, it's a way to create conversation between parent and child about the powerful device that is being put in their hands.
Helpful resource: Parents and kids alike will appreciate Safely's Mobile Phone Contract for Parents and Kids, designed to create conversation about being a new phone owner. It's a well-written tool that conveys the privilege that comes with being a new phone owner with the right balance of wit, humor, and seriousness.
Image courtesy of Safely.com
Have you established phone limits? 9 of 12
Why this is important: When can your child use their smartphone? What are the text and data limits outlined in the phone contract with your mobile carrier? What happens when your child exceeds their texting and data plan? Often times we're so focused on choosing the right smartphone and making sure our kids are going to be responsible with it, that we forget to mention the fact that the phone comes with a contract of its own — with steep fees for any overages. Talk to your child about when they can use their phone at home, what a data plan really means, and what happens if they send too many texts.
Helpful resource: Explore features provided by your cellular carrier to help your new smartphone owner stick to their limits. Companies like AT&T feature Smart Limits for Wireless that enable users to set sensible boundaries for their kids.
Do you have a way to monitor what your kids are doing online and on their mobile devices? 10 of 12
Why this is important: Sexting, grooming, cyberbullying — the online world can be a seedy place, and social networks make it even easier for creeps to prey on our kids. If your kids understand that you're always trying to keep them safe, then they might be a little more amenable to you monitoring their behavior.
Helpful resource: Filters, online monitoring tools, and apps can be used to monitor online and mobile behavior, but with so many out there, what are the best ones? Fox 4 News features a nice roundup of helpful tools: Ways to Track Your Kids Online, on Their Phones.
Have you talked about what’s at stake when sharing information online and through social media? 11 of 12
Why this is important: We don't understand why our kids post, text, or say what's on their mind without really thinking it through because we've forgotten how impulsive we were at that age. The bottom line is that social networks make it too easy to overshare. Once something is out there, it can live forever and it takes some serious damage control to repair one's online reputation.
Helpful resource: How to Talk With Your Kids About Social Media Safety discusses the importance of maintaining privacy and the risks of oversharing in a way that's easily understandable to new 13-year-olds, who have just gotten the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts they've been wanting for their birthday.
Do you discuss the real consequences of texting and driving? 12 of 12
Why this is important: 75% of teens say texting and driving is common among their friends. It's an epidemic that causes 100,000 crashes per year, many of which are fatal and others that have life-altering consequences that no family wants to face. All it takes is a second of being distracted
Helpful resource: As a family, take the It Can Wait pledge and pledge to not text and drive. This joint venture by cellular carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile is a promising impactful way to make texting and driving very uncool.
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