One of the things we look forward to each holiday season is the Illinois Attorney General’s Safe Shopping Guide. Among the things detailed by Lisa Madigan and her staff is a host of information about various products that could cause, or have caused, havoc for consumers. But this year’s list contained a relatively new angle with respect to consumer safety, one that focused primarily on the smallest and most impressionable consumers: your kids. We found it to be one of the more insightful reports in recent memory, if only because the newest generation of children has never known a world without the Internet. The 2015 Guide sheds a little light on what to be aware of, should you be in the market for an iPad, smartphone or the like.
The new offering, “Creating a Positive Digital Culture in Your Home,” made sure to include useful tips on how to promote a safe learning environment for the tech savvy generation that is digesting more information via smartphone and tablet than ever before. If you’re considering buying devices for your kids this holiday season, this is the list for you.
This year’s guide provides a how-to list of points that stresses the importance of establishing age-appropriate limits on these devices so parents can monitor what their kids are accessing online. As Madigan states early on, recent studies show that an increasing number of children are left to use mobile and Internet-accessible on their own. Nearly 88% of American teens, ages 13–18, own or have access to a mobile phone; 73% of teens have smartphones. Even more remarkable, most of them started using mobile devices in their first year of life, according to statistics gathered by the AG’s office. The responsibility of having access to the Internet 24/7 is a responsibility many of us take for granted.
As a result, kids are exposed to the dangers of the Internet at increasingly younger ages. Madigan proposes a list of ten things that parents should take note of during the holiday season. Especially interesting, and worth pointing out, is bullet point number 6, the “use agreement.” Establishing those boundaries early on is a great way to hold you and your kids accountable in the future.
- Maintain open communication with your child about technology and the appropriate uses of it.
- Make sure your child knows they cannot be anonymous on the Internet.
- Talk to your child about what should never be posted online and the dangers of posting too much information.
- Explain that posting online is just like writing in permanent marker – it cannot be erased.
- Engage your child in continuous conversations about how to behave online.
- Complete a “use agreement” with your child and talk about respecting others online. Establish and enforce household rules for technology usage.
- Discuss why strong passwords are important, how to create them and the need to keep them private. Obtain all passwords for devices and apps.
- Stay informed on your child’s Internet habits, review their user history and observe their social media activity. Know who their friends and followers are. (Taking it one step further, my wife and I don’t allow our children to erase their history. There’s consequences if we catch them doing so.)
- Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior that may indicate cyberbullying.
- Never threaten to take away your child’s phone or Internet access. This could prevent them from approaching you in the future about online problems.
Turning the dial up to 11:
(Bonus) 11. And in an ode to the Old West, we require our three boys to hand in their pistols/devices before they head off to bed, keeping distractions to a minimum.