Home technology has opened up entertainment, education, safety and convenience options for our homes. That said, sometimes convenience and cool factors clouds our perspective on smart tech. For those of us with kids, we can’t forget to ensure we plan and manage their connected experiences. Its never too early to think about and set some simple guidelines:
- Rules and boundaries: Set expectations on technology and device use. Kids need to know the rules, so set them to align with your family values. This includes what programming and content you allow, appropriate times to use technology, and what’s safe to put in online profiles (no last names please!). Consider time limits because, as with anything in life, balance is a good thing. Remind them to never share passwords with any friends no matter how close they are. Speaking of friends, if you don’t want your kids up all night texting, then have devices charge overnight in your room. Its ok that you’re allowed to look at their devices and on-line use. Make sure you’re honest and up front and don’t treat it like a spying mission. You have to balance respect and privacy, but these are kids and they do need to know you care.
- Dialogue: With all the goodness of entertainment, technology and the Internet, there are of course bad things like inappropriate TV and Internet content and cyber bullying or ‘online drama’. Explain what’s ok with you and what’s not. If they see something questionable, talk through it with them. Explain what’s good on-line behaviour and what’s not (i.e. would you say it to someone’s face?). Remind them that people’s online lives are likely much more exciting then their real lives. There are also lots of great people to have online friendships with, but if someone wants to meet face-to-face, go with them to meet in a safe public place. Explain that there is no absolute privacy online (even if the latest app promises it) and that the Internet never forgets. There are real consequences for bad online histories when applying for post secondary education and jobs. Handle missteps and mistakes with dialogue and understanding – be their guide to this new world that no generation has lived through yet.
- Keep tabs: Think about where you want your kids using technology – especially for younger kids. A computer nook off of the kitchen or great room is a good as it allows parents to do their thing and still keep an eye on children’s online use. If your kid needs help or stumbles across something inappropiate, you’re nearby to help and discuss. Also think about where they will be watching TV or gaming. A media room setup in the great room or family room is convenient and open for causal parental checkins. Also consider that building in a cool media solution helps make your home the hub for the neighbourhood kids. Their friends may eat you out of house and home, but you’ll know where they are and what they’re up to!
You may not apply all of these, but at least think about them and use what makes sense for your family. Set the rules, and follow up on them bit by bit – they need to absorb the lessons over time. As with anything home tech, if you don’t plan, you can end up with bad experiences. You don’t need to break the bank or ruin your home’s flow and aesthetics to make it more family friendly. With some thought and planning, well integrated smart tech solutions will match your family’s needs and keep them safe and healthy.