Kids–and adults!–often turn to technology for both fun and learning. Whether kids are doing online research for a project, posting comments on social media, texting a friend, or watching a movie, it can sometimes be surprising just how much time they spend using screens. In fact, a report by Common Sense Media states that tweens (children aged 8-12 years old) consume about six hours of media time each day, and for teenagers (children aged 13-18) the daily average jumps up to nearly nine hours. Given how much time our kids are connected to technology, it’s important to consider how parents can help their children stay safe during their online adventures. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Nemours Health System agree that while the internet can be a wonderful tool for education and recreation, parents need to set up some basic safety guidelines. Below are four tips for parents who want to make sure that their kids are protected while using their devices.
1. Set clear limits
Every family is different, so there’s no set rule about what your policy should be. For example, you might say that your children need to ask before they download a new app, complete homework before having screen time, or put away phones during dinner. Whatever your expectations are, explain them to your kids and make sure everyone sticks to it.
2. Protect personal information
Remind your children that even if they’re having fun online, it’s possible that the person on the other end of the screen is trying to cause trouble. Cyber attackers may even pose as children in order to gather information from unsuspecting kids. Tell your children that when they’re online, they shouldn’t share identifying information like their full name, phone number, or address. In addition, they should always talk to a parent before agreeing to meet in person with someone that they “met” online.
3. Use technology with your kids
Instead of just laying down the law, find time to play and learn with your children. You’ll get to see what kinds of games, websites, and apps they like to use, and your kids will have fun showing you the ropes of their favorite tech tools.
4. Keep conversations going
The most important step of all is constantly talking to your kids about what they are doing online both at home and at school. Let your children know that you’re interested in what they’re doing and that you believe that they can make responsible choices while still having a good time. Also, remind them that they can always come and talk to you if something happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is also a good idea to set specific rules and have your child sign a Kids’ Online Safety Contract.
The world is constantly becoming more digital, and it’s critical that we teach children how to effectively navigate the world of technology. Sanford’s STEM education programs are integrated into all grade levels so that our students are fluent in the use of technology. In addition, our school counselors provide resources to help students navigate the digital world. However, it’s still essential for parents to provide support by adding online safety to their list of parent-child discussion topics.
Patrick Martin is the Lower School Technology Coordinator for Sanford School and a Google Certified Educator. He received his master's degree in applied technology from Wilmington University and his bachelor's degree from Auburn University.
Kevin McDermott is a Sanford alumnus who joined the technology team in 2015. He received his bachelor's degree from Albright College. Kevin completed his master's program in cybersecurity at the University of Delaware.
A Sanford alumna, Jen Nightengale, is the Middle School Technology Coordinator. She received her bachelor's degree from Dickinson College.
Sandy Sutty is the Technology Integration Coordinator and Upper School Librarian at Sanford School. She has a master's in Science in Instructional Technology and Library Science and a bachelor's degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. She is also a member of the advisory board of the UDLib/SEARCH program and is Google Certified.