I am by no means a technology expert, but I do know how to listen and take notes when technology experts speak. We had two technology experts from Cook Children’s come and speak to our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The gentlemen who provided us with this helpful information were Jim Stadler who is the Chief Technology Officer at Cook Children’s and Dr. Justin Smith who is a Pediatrician and digital health expert. Dr. Smith is also Know as Doc Smitty on Facebook and Twitter, where he has a large following. He shares his expertise on these sites and his information is awesome! Here is a link to his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheDocSmitty/?ref=ts&fref=ts
Below is some of the very useful information they provided us with.
Every household with kids of any age need rules when it comes to technology. Here are some suggestions for the experts:
- PCs should be in a common area out in the open, such as the family room, so activity online can be monitored.
- No smart phones or devices allowed at the dining table (this applies to parents and kids).
- Minimize technology and devices in bedrooms. Charge kid devices and phones in the kitchen, not in bedrooms (too tempting to use if in the bedroom).
- No screen time for children under age 18 months.
- Block access to “adult” channels, so these channels cannot be previewed or ordered. Go into the settings of your cable box using your remote to block access.
- Block channel titles in the program guide for the adult channels. Blocking the ability to order still keeps it in the guide. You have to once again go to the settings in your cable box using your remote to block adult channel titles too.
- Use the “parental controls” available on your cable box to select the settings for your family preferences. You typically have to do this for each cable box unit individually.
Parental Controls Software
- There are many software devices available to parents for purchase. They help protect against unwanted content. It is also a way to actively manage your kid’s devices. Software needs to be managed separately for each device. Many of these take time to set up and can be complicated. Two other solutions were recommended by these experts: DNS and Circle from Disney.
- Open DNS Family shield is free. It takes a little bit of time to set up, but it is refcommemed by the experts for parents. https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/
Circle by Disney was the other device highly recommended by these experts. Personally, this is what our family will be buying. Easy to set up (less than 5 minutes). You plug it into the wall within 5 feet of your wireless router box. You then pair the devices to this unit that you want to use it with. You can then set screen time limits, parental settings for websites, set bedtime for devices, and so much more. After we purchase it I will be sure to share my experience here on the blog. It is a $99 device with no monthly fees.
- YouTube is deemed the “Wild West of the internet” by these experts. There are settings you can use to filter content, but it is not an exact science. Bad stuff can still get through to your kids for them to view. With this in mind I won’t be telling my own kids that YouTube even exists, for as long as possible. Brielle has an IPad for educational games, Amazon kids, and other videos we approve. We don’t allow YouTube at all. There is just too much out there that we don’t want her to see for as long as possible. Some of this content nobody should ever be viewing, but unfortunately that’s the world we live in, so we must be diligent as parents.
- You can go to settings in Google, Chrome, and Safari Internet browsers and set parental settings for searching. You can set them up for “safe searching”. It is not a perfect science, but it is helpful.
- The younger generations are no longer using Facebook. SnapChat and Instagram are more popular among teens and youth right now. However, it is always changing. Be sure you know what social networks your kids are using and monitor their accounts, posts, and usage.
Here is some information that Doc Smitty (Dr. Smith) posted on his Facebook page that I thought was useful and pertained to what he presented to our MOPS group:
Thank you to Dr. Justin Smith and Jim Stadler for providing us with this great information about technology and protecting our kids. As Doc Smitty said “technology isn’t going anywhere….burying our head(s) in the sand won’t work”. We need to be diligent and aware as parents about what our kids are viewing via technology as it is all around us now in everyday life.