Tech Tips to Teach Your Kids in 2020

The old adage that the only con­stant is change” is espe­cial­ly true for tech­nol­o­gy. It’s stag­ger­ing to think about how much the tech land­scape has evolved in just a mat­ter of a few decades, and even the last few years. Most adults have adapt­ed to tech­nol­o­gy over time. Our chil­dren, how­ev­er, are true dig­i­tal natives — exposed to tech­nol­o­gy from birth and inun­dat­ed with it at every turn. 

It can be daunt­ing to intro­duce chil­dren to tech­nol­o­gy and teach them best prac­tices and how to be safe, respon­si­ble cit­i­zens on the Inter­net. The key is start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion ear­ly to help instill good dig­i­tal habits in our kids from the start.

We’ve writ­ten before about the impor­tance of famil­iar­iz­ing your­self with parental con­trols, set­ting bound­aries for screen time and teach­ing chil­dren to man­age a healthy online pres­ence. Here are some of the most valu­able top­ics to dis­cuss with chil­dren as they adopt tech­nol­o­gy and learn skills for online safety.

Online behavior and cyberbullying

You may have already explained The Gold­en Rule” to your chil­dren. Treat­ing oth­ers as we wish to be treat­ed is one of the fun­da­men­tal guide­posts of human­i­ty. It’s a con­cept that is equal­ly impor­tant to put into prac­tice on the Internet. 

Too many chil­dren (and adults) hide behind the cloak of anonymi­ty on the Inter­net and use it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to bul­ly and belit­tle oth­ers. Spread­ing neg­a­tiv­i­ty is much eas­i­er behind a screen than it is face to face, but the con­se­quences are just as dire — for both the vic­tim and the bully. 

Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Soci­ety for the Pos­i­tive Care of Chil­dren, cyber­bul­ly­ing leads to high­er rates of depres­sion and anx­i­ety, sleep dis­or­ders, phys­i­cal ail­ments like headaches and diges­tive prob­lems, and a high­er risk of suicide. 

While cur­rent­ly there are no fed­er­al laws against bul­ly­ing and cyber­bul­ly­ing, in many states it falls under harass­ment law and is sub­ject to school poli­cies and pro­ce­dures that could include exclu­sion from extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, sus­pen­sion, or expulsion. 

Teach chil­dren from a very ear­ly age that it’s just as impor­tant to be kind online as it is face-to-face. Mod­el prop­er online behav­ior and good dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship to chil­dren, and have open con­ver­sa­tions with them about rec­og­niz­ing and report­ing bullies. 

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Trusted and safe content

It’s easy to get over­whelmed with the amount of infor­ma­tion online. We can’t depend on our kids to assure us whether or not a web­site or game is appro­pri­ate. We must check for our­selves. Many sites may look unas­sum­ing, but can be full of harm­ful con­tent that is any­thing but appro­pri­ate for children.

While it’s impor­tant to talk to old­er chil­dren about age-appro­pri­ate con­tent and what sites and apps they spend their time on, we should take an active role in mon­i­tor­ing what young chil­dren are con­sum­ing online. Allow only rep­utable sites by imple­ment­ing parental con­trols and explain why those con­trols are need­ed (and meant) to pro­tect them.

In addi­tion to screen time lim­its, fil­ter which apps chil­dren can access on their devices (and how much time they are allowed to spend on each one). On some plat­forms, you can also set up con­tent and pri­va­cy restric­tions to define which con­tent rat­ings your kids have expo­sure to, and pro­tect them from explic­it songs, videos, books, and apps. 

Parental con­trols dif­fer for iOS and Android devices, so know your options for the devices your chil­dren have access to. Don’t for­get about Inter­net-con­nect­ed tech­nol­o­gy like smart speak­ers, smart TVs and dig­i­tal voice assis­tants. Often time devices such as these might get over­looked since they aren’t con­sid­ered to be a tra­di­tion­al” device.

Digital footprint management

One of the most impor­tant lessons to instill in kids is that any­thing post­ed online lasts for­ev­er. Many chil­dren (and a sur­pris­ing num­ber of adults) are under the false assump­tion that if they delete some­thing, it goes away. This is sim­ply not the case. Whether it’s through a screen­shot, web archives or a sec­ondary stor­age loca­tion, posts and con­tent can come back to haunt us lat­er in life.

While a child’s dig­i­tal foot­print may seem inno­cent and harm­less when they are young, they need to under­stand that poten­tial­ly neg­a­tive or inap­pro­pri­ate posts can have seri­ous con­se­quences lat­er in life. This is espe­cial­ly true as they go through school, apply for col­leges, and seek employment. 

As par­ents, we can help pro­tect our children’s dig­i­tal foot­prints by being acute­ly aware of what we post about them from an ear­ly age. Be care­ful what you share about your chil­dren and teach by exam­ple—share care­ful­ly and think twice before each and every post.

Online safety

We’ve already talked about teach­ing our kids about cyber­bul­ly­ing and good dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship, but it’s equal­ly impor­tant to instruct them on what to do if they are on the receiv­ing end of bul­ly­ing or online threats. Encour­age them to come to you imme­di­ate­ly if they expe­ri­ence some­thing neg­a­tive or threat­en­ing online.

As our chil­dren come to an age where they explore and join social media plat­forms, they need to be able to rec­og­nize fake pro­files and poten­tial phish­ing efforts by preda­to­ry adults. Talk to your chil­dren about the impor­tance of pri­va­cy set­tings and why they are necessary.

Avoiding scams

Scams are per­va­sive on the Inter­net. Unscrupu­lous com­pa­nies and phish­ing ploys are get­ting more sophis­ti­cat­ed and con­vinc­ing all the time. As your chil­dren get old­er and have more auton­o­my online, teach them how to spot and avoid scams. If they sus­pect that an ad or mes­sage is strange or mis­lead­ing, instruct them to come to you first, before click­ing on or inter­act­ing with the post. 

Reit­er­ate the impor­tance of not shar­ing per­son­al infor­ma­tion via email or on social media unless you give per­mis­sion for your chil­dren to do so, and you’ve ver­i­fied that the sender is a trust­ed source. Strong pass­words and data secu­ri­ty also becomes an impor­tant les­son as your chil­dren get old enough to have their own accounts for cer­tain sites.

Enjoy the moment

Last­ly, remem­ber that it’s easy to get caught up in tech­nol­o­gy — both the bad and the good aspects of it. As your chil­dren grow and become more involved in social shar­ing plat­forms, they may be tempt­ed to cap­ture and share every moment online, with­out stop­ping to savor the moment as it’s happening. 

Mod­el a lifestyle to your chil­dren that encour­ages them to live in the moment and enjoy life with­out the con­stant pres­ence of tech­nol­o­gy. Dis­con­nect from tech dur­ing meals, con­ver­sa­tions, and fam­i­ly time so that every­one can focus on build­ing healthy, hap­py relationships.