From tablets in the classrooms to worldwide video conferences, it is practically vital to have more than a basic understanding of the gadgets and applications available. But, how much and when do you introduce this to your children? And how do you keep them safe while doing so?
Infants and Toddlers
For children under the age of two, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the avoidance of all screen media exposure. Likewise, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has endorsed computer activities starting at age three.
If you do choose to introduce your child to these programs at this time, with each purchase or download, ask yourself what it is doing for your child. What are the pros and cons? And, of course, always provide adult supervision.
School Age Children
As children learn to read, electronic media and the Internet become more functional. It can be appropriate for children to get online as early as first grade with parental assistance and monitoring. It is important to guide your children through recommended websites, and address any concerns and questions as they arise. Safekids.com provides many common questions and concerns that parents can talk about with their kids to teach them how to be safe online.
As children begin to write, email can be a useful reading and writing tool. Similar to the days of pen pals, you can assign a friend or family member to communicate with your child. But, be sure to set guidelines about account access and passwords. It is recommended to have complete access and all passwords until age 12.
With preteens looped into ever-changing technology, it is likely their computer knowledge and usage has surpassed yours. They are likely to use computers for social reasons, which means they will benefit from discussions about the risks of Internet use as well as persistent reminders about what is and is not appropriate to share online.
This also is a good time to consider introducing a basic cell phone like the Samsung Factor with limited minutes and text messaging capabilities.
As a teenager with a history of monitored technology use, teens should, and will, expect an increased level of privacy. The AAP recommends that teens have few limitations on their computer use; however, use your best judgement because you know the limitations and responsibilities your child is ready to accept. It also is important to give them space, but have a rules in place so that you can access their online presence if needed.
You should continue to engage in conversations about what they are doing online. Get on the same social network sites, even as an inactive presence, so you can monitor their activity from afar. Send text messages, chat with them on IM and get comfortable with their online world so you can continue to be part of it.
Finally, this is a great time for them to have full smartphone and tablet capabilities if they have proven themselves to be responsible. New phones like the LG G Flex are great for teens because they have a back that is self-healing. This is perfect for backpacks, purses and the occasional drops and scratches that are likely to occur.