For generations “The Talk” most parents dreaded having with their children was one involving the birds and the bees. However, as technology has taken on a much bigger role in all of our lives, a new awkward conversation has entered the parenting sphere – “The Tech Talk”. As parents, we need to do the homework and learn the language so we know how to talk about technology with younger children. Yes, I’m talking the good, The bad and even the embarrassing.
Why We Need to Know How to Talk About Technology with Younger Children
As Parents, we may feel embarrassed about our lack of knowledge about today’s technology, or some of the subject matter (like porn) or even that it seems like our kids know more than we do. This could lead us to avoid the topic all together. Unfortunately, our silence puts our children at risk, because THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO KEEP OUR KIDS SAFE ONLINE IS TO TALK WITH THEM.
While our children may be more comfortable with much of today’s technology and understand the mechanics of navigating it better than we do, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need our supervision and guidance. They may know tech, but WE KNOW THEM!!!
We can help them develop healthy habits and have safe interactions with technology, simply by opening up a dialogue that starts when they are toddlers and keeps going well into their teens. All it takes are some simple questions and boundaries at each stage to raise savvy kids who appreciate all of technology’s benefits, but also know how to use it safely and responsibly.
Toddler To Preschool
- Establish early-on that your children must ask before being allowed to use technology devices and they must use them with care. See if they know why it’s important to turn things off or to put them away where they belong when They’re done using them.
- Set time limits, and when it’s time to finish, ask them to tell you one thing they learned. Follow up with something like, “technology is fun, because we use our brains, but what aren’t we using?” Help them to see the difference between tech time and doing more active things. Believe it or not, this actually will introduce them to the concept of balance and make transitioning to something new easier.
- Spend tech time together each week playing one of their favorite games or reading an interactive story. Ask them questions about what they like or have them tell you their favorite part. Just letting them know you are interested sets a very important foundation for the future.
Early Elementary School
- Many children start taking technology classes as early as kindergarten, be sure when they come home from school that you have them tell you about the material they are covering. What was interesting? What was confusing? Some of the websites they use may be accessible on your home computer, ask them to show you one of their favorites.
- The school should also send home some kind of parent communication regarding its technology policies. This is a great opportunity to discuss the rules with your child. Ask them, “Why do you think they made these rules?” Why is it important to follow them?”
- If you aren’t using any child restrictions on your devices at this point, you need to install them. Your children should know those restrictions have been set by you. Explain this to them by asking why some movies are rated “G” and others “PG”? Help them to see that just as some movies are not appropriate for them, there are also things on the internet that are not okay for them to see or read. Tell them if they ever see something they think they aren’t supposed to online to tell you right away and reassure them they won’t be in trouble as long as they are honest with you.
- If your child has begun playing technology based games with other children (Apps, PlayStation, Xbox), start asking them if it is okay to act differently when playing a video game? We know not only children, but many adults, struggle with being as kind online as they are in real life. This provides your kids with an early introduction to cyber etiquette and the idea that is not okay to treat people differently in one space vs. another.
Later Elementary School
- By the end of elementary school, many kids have cell phones and access to social media. This is when to start talking with your kids about privacy issues. Ask if they know you are supposed to be 13 years old to use most social networks? Inform them that the main reason is because these networks collect personal information about their users. Have your kids tell you why it might be important for information about them (like where they live, how old they are, what school they go to) to be kept private. Also, don’t forget the ethics of this situation either. Ask them if they think it is okay to lie about your age or join these networks?
- As your child is getting older, they will begin to have broader access to the Internet. This could be at friends’ homes who have less parental supervision or via their own or a friend’s mobile phone. You may also have a child who enjoys gaming apps, which sometimes have options to “connect” and play with others they don’t know. While I’m sure you probably had the “stranger danger” talk with your kids a long time ago, now you’ll want to have the same conversation about strangers online.
This is a BIG topic that covers almost 18 years (or more) in our kids’ lives. To fully cover all the material, I had to split it into two posts. Be sure to check back next week for part II – Tweens and Teens. Don’t want to miss it, sign up for our weekly email newsletter HERE.
Have You Begun the “Tech Talk” with Your Kids Yet? Why or Why Not?
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