17 January 2014

Me, My Kids and the World Wide Web




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As a parent these days, not only do you need to learn how to feed, clean and care for your children, but you also need to have completed a thesis on how to navigate the web with your kid. 

Unless you want to become Amish, getting a healthy balance and some wise advice in this area is essential for any person, especially parents.  You just can't bury your head in the sand when it comes to technology, no matter how technologically illiterate you are.  

I often get asked questions about how we cope with media in our home and also about how we protect our kids while online - so here are some of our tips and tricks for technology in the home.

Please Note: I am definitely not an expert when it comes to this stuff, just a mum who wants to help my kids learn to navigate technology wisely.  Tackling this subject is almost overwhelming, as there is so much that could be covered, but I'm going to take the bull by the horns and do my best to share some of the simple things that have helped us as a family, in the hope that it may help some of you.

  
How Much Media is Too Much
There are so many studies available now telling us of the dangers of letting your children spend too much time watching TV or playing on media.  When you've got 4 kids, even the logistics of letting them each have a certain amount of time on media can be a nightmare to orchestrate and oversee and in the end you feel like declaring media freedom to the world forever and retreating into your room to rock back and forth while pinning your favourite humour images on Pinterest.

For us as a family, our family rule is, no computers or gaming during the week, only on weekends and holidays.  It's amazing how once the family get used to the rules, they happily go out and play together, read books and play board games.  The weekends and holidays are far more relaxed.  There are also times where media can be used as a reward (aka bribery) during the week if you want - lazy teenager who won't mow the lawns... media time is a great commodity to bargain with!


Where does your media live?
Symon and I have been involved in working with youth for well over 15 years, and over that time have learnt a lot about internet safety and have sadly also seen the devastation it can cause in young people's lives.  Not only have we seen kids who live most of their day wasted away staring at a screen gaming, but also the damages of media violence, porn and the like.

It's not that I don't trust my kids, I just don't trust the people out there who are trying and hook my kids into destructive addictions.  I'm not a silly parent who would leave my kids home alone with a loaded gun, and I feel it's the same when it comes to the internet.

Here are some of the things we do:
  • At our house, all computers with internet access are in a public place - in our case, our lounge or dining room.  This is a standard the kids have learnt - if you want to go on the internet, you do it in a public place.  We also make sure this is the standard at their friends homes that they visit.
  • We make sure our search engines are on strict filter settings, and looking up sites, or searching for things are only to be done with mum or dad helping.  Websites they want to access are saved in their favourites and accessed from there.
  • These days, Ipods, smartphones, and things like the Wii and XBox have access to the internet too. Ipods have to be played in the lounge or public place while hooked up to the net - the internet password is entered by us, and forgotten again afterwards.  Things like the Wii and XBox have parental settings and passwords so that only certain areas can be accessed.
  • While none of our kids currently have cellphones, I've heard of many families having a box where all the phones get put at night.  I like this idea.  When it comes to smartphones, you need to set your own boundaries there, but remember, they are just like a computer with access to everything a computer has access to.  For us as a family, we aren't going in that direction at the moment.

Safety Settings
There are safety settings on most things, you just need to take the time to find them and set them. Nothing is fool proof though, and that is why we as a family have decided to keep all internet access in public places.  If you seriously struggle with stuff like setting up safety settings on your devices, ask a family friend, computer literate nephew or niece, or Google it! Google is your friend - and I'm still surprised how many people ask questions they could just Google!

Things people often don't know:
  • You can set the search settings for the app store (both Apple and Google) to a strict level.  This weeds out all the dodgy adult apps from being displayed.
  • If your kid has an Instagram account and loads up pics with location settings, often the photos they take at home with be tagged with your exact home address for everyone to see where they live. Firstly, set their account to private, or teach them how to turn off their GPS when loading up pics from home (do not fear, you can delete the home ones from showing on the map by simply editing them in the map area).
  • Like I said before, most gaming consoles have parental settings/locks - make the most of these, after all, you are the parent! Be aware that there are always ways around settings for those ultra clever kids, and that's why keeping the internet public at your home is a massive key.
  • Teach your kids about internet safety - do they chat online to people they don't know (do they realise that cute 16 year old boy they are chatting to is probably a creepy 55 year old man looking for a good time)?  Who are their Facebook friends?  What is bullying online?  These are topics that have to be addressed in your family if you want to parent the best you can these days.
  • Most games have safety settings - get involved with your kids and be aware of what games they are playing.  Some games have gore filters and language filters - some don't. Look at the ratings - research the games (good links at the bottom of this post) and talk about them with your child.  Decide as a family what your values are, otherwise society/media will decide for you.
I totally respect my kids privacy and am not the sort of parent who goes searching through their diaries and emails, but they know that just like the police, if I have reason to suspect a crime, I will gain the right to break and enter.  Teach your kids while they are young to live wisely and play by the rules.


Unmonitored Media
We are involved as much as possible with monitoring our kids daily diet of media. As they get older, more and more discussion takes place with our children as to the pros and cons of certain games, websites etc.  I want my kids to grow up to be healthy adults who can reason wisely and make good healthy decisions in all areas of their life, especially when it comes to media and the internet.

I haven't talked much about the pornography aspect here in this post, mainly because of the viewing audience of this blog, but there is a deep dark underworld that is readily accessible to any adult or child with the click of a button through the internet.  Sadly today, the statistics say that 56% of divorces are because of porn addiction.  The sad thing is that this world stripped back exposes an ever darker underworld of exploitation and slavery (27 million plus at the moment according to A21 Campaign)!) that many people don't want to acknowledge.  Money is a big part of this, and hooking your kid in while they are young is their main goal, so you need to keep your wits about you.  It is up to us as parents to be aware and wise, to talk to our children at their appropriate ages about the reality of this world. I will share some links below that may help, but it's up to us as parents to get educated and aware.  We can't keep our heads buried in the sand any longer.

When it comes to unmonitored media, we don't allow it.  We check out movie reviews and gaming reviews as best we can and make our decision as parents.  We aren't perfect or flawless, but we do our best.  If we are leaving kids alone at home (now that our oldest is old enough to babysit) we take the internet modem with us.  Easy to unplug and take, no drama to plug back in when an adult is home again.


On that light note (hehe), I hope that this has been helpful.

I know many parents and grandparents feel helpless and even 'dumb' around their media savvy kids. It sometimes can feel hard to be in charge when you feel clueless about what you are in charge of! Remind your kids/grandkids that they need to respect you even if you don't get it.  Ask questions nicely, watch what they are playing, do some research, ask people around you who you know understand it more.  

If you face disrespectful behaviour from your kids, remind them who pays the internet bill.  Don't be bullied - take charge and stand your ground.  Tell them that when they are ready to talk respectfully/do their chores/use the computer where you said it had to be used, you will be ready to put in the internet code/let them use your internet or power or house!

Stay strong - you can do it!


Helpful Links
Reviews for Games and Media
Plugged In has pretty thorough reviews of games (most parents aren't aware of what your innocent kid can actually do in games like Grand Theft Auto).
Common Sense Media is a great site with game and app reviews and other resources for helping parents train their kids to navigate the internet wisely.
IMDB parental review for specific movies (go to the site, type in the movie, and scroll down to the parental review).  Can be a really great help!  Plugged In also has movie reviews.

Computer Monitoring and Safety
X3watch - cheap filtering and accountability software (highly recommended)
Watchdog - very good filtering internet service

Other Interesting Links
A21 Campaign  (become aware of the human trafficking issue)


Please feel free to share, and please leave me your ideas, thoughts or any good links in the comments below. I love hearing how others do life!


11 comments:

  1. Brilliant post full of lots of helpful ideas... :)

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  2. Such a great post! Thanks Kristy .. so true that it is something that we need to keep a handle on - great idea to take the modem ;-)

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  3. This is an interesting video on internet safety that my girls saw at school at the end of last term - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o8auwnJtqE. It certainly made check all their settings on their ipods.

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  4. great article - parents need to get tech knowledge to keep up with this. We have had a family member using facebook to message my best friends daughter who was 12, and send her pornography. Sadly it was not illegal until recently so we cant get them arrested. The biggest problem was that they can use this method and be undetected - physical safety alone is no longer enough.

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  5. This is a great post. It would be the one thing that my daughter and I clash over. Pleased to see there are other like minded parents out there.

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  6. Very interesting and something I will need to bear in mind for the future as my little man gets older. The internet is a scary place when unmonitored and parents do need to make a stand and take responsibility as porn and internet addiction ruins lives and families.

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  7. my 4 year old bought $250 worth of dinosaur food from an app that didn't have a password protection on in-app purchases. luckily now you can turn this on and off in security settings on you iphone! But the best thing we find is turning on airport mode when they are on the ipad playing games as it restricts all access to internet.

    yes 4 is young.... 2 is younger.

    they are always interested in the computer too but i just say no to that. might change when we have homework aged kids who need to research stuff. (remember looking stuff up in encyclopedias? lol).

    So this was a great read as I will (sooner than i think) be coming into this sort of parenting eventually.

    We have also noticed that we tend to use the ipad as a babysitter (thanks elmo alphabet) and an hour can go by and we haven't realised that our 4 year old is still playing it. I feel so bad as time flies so we've quickly set in some specific screen time for the ipad games. I swear my kids are learning so much from the educational games that we do have but sadly may be also learning how to be antisocial and slowly becoming less able to entertain themselves playing regularly. Lego is big in our house all of a sudden so we are encouraging that like crazy!

    Great post! Great parents!

    xx

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  8. Good post. No kids yet but I will remember the above.

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  9. GREAT advice, love love love it! Will be bookmarking this post- thanks for sharing your wisdom x

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  10. good article Kristy

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  11. Great tips PJ! thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!! x

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Thanks for your comments... I love hearing from you!!!

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