I was an adventurer and a risk-taker when I was young.
I was always the one in college willing to eat food off the floor, and the kid who didn’t care about sneaking out at night into the wild world.
Then, I became a parent and the unimaginable happened: I became afraid. Not for myself, mind you, but for my little one—everything scared me.
I would wake up in the middle of the night out of a sound sleep just to check all the doors. I started to see germs everywhere. I felt like I had to be the protector. To be honest, it was fairly easy with a young child.
It wasn’t so easy as the years passed, as the specter of technology crept in.
Technology had become a frenemy I had trouble conquering, let alone taming.
On one hand, I wanted my child to explore the world of technology. On the other hand, I wanted to move my family to a remote mountain and live off the land—far away and free from all possible search engines.
My hysteria is hardly unique, of course. Many parents struggle with trying to figure out how to keep their kids safe when the world is tech-everything. It’s surprisingly easier than I thought, and the trick is to put some firm measures into place.
Here are five ways to keep our children safe in a tech-infused world:
1. Avoid buying your preteen the bells-and-whistles phone.
This was a huge must-do for me when contemplating my kid’s first cell phone. Yes, I wanted them to be able to text family members. They wanted to take selfies. However, they didn’t need to be exposed to potential online dangers.
This is why I looked for a phone designed for kids specifically. Gabb Wireless offers a cell phone that doesn’t have an app store or access to the web. This meant I could keep in touch with my kid while helping them foster a healthy respect for tech. Over time, I have the option to scale up to a full-scale cell phone for them. Our children do not need the added stress or temptation of access to TikTok or YouTube when they are young.
2. Have conversations about the pitfalls of technology.
Social media addiction has become a real problem for people of all ages.
There are a number of reasons why this is happening, and one way to help any child avoid falling into scrolling traps can be through regular discussions.
As a parent, I know it can be challenging to have discussions with our kids about the mistakes and lessons we’ve learned in our own lives. Nevertheless, the parents who open up may help their kids avoid the same errors.
Even smart young people sometimes do foolish things. They’re less likely to choose unwise paths if they’ve been given a heads-up on what to expect.
3. Turn bedrooms into tech-free zones.
Okay, this recommendation isn’t for weaklings: It’s tough to tell a kid that bedroom laptop use is forbidden.
Having location-based tech parameters is vital (in my experience) because kids will have less solo engagement, while on their devices, ensuring that adults are around, which keeps them safe from harm.
To be honest, I try to limit my own tech-in-bedroom use to solely using the smartphone as an alarm. We, as a family, will all have more restful sleep as a result of not having technology in our bedrooms.
Besides, the more I show my family that I’m capable of eschewing tech, the easier it is for them to follow suit, and that’s a positive disciple.
4. Make technology a tool, not a focus.
Everyone laughs about the fact that American families can sit in the same room and never talk because they’re all on their phones or tablets. However, this isn’t really a laughing matter. When technology is allowed to become more important than real-world socializing, it’s invasive and alarming.
All forms of tech can be a tool. We use tools to help us get things done.
Therefore, technology needs to be treated accordingly. Sure, I’ve found it challenging to stop cruising through YouTube videos. At the same time, I’ve never found a YouTube video that entertained me as much as talking with my children.
Keeping the lines of communication open is critical for kids in knowing that their parents are safe listening havens.
5. Invest in (and actively use) parental control software.
The top names in the tech world (Norton, Kaspersky, and McAfee) have engineered some pretty spectacular parental control software and apps.
Buying into them involves being willing to use them, though; that’s where some parents tend to fall short. Even if a parent has to take a course online, the investment is worth the price and time.
Taking the time to understand our children’s internet activity, logins, whereabouts will guarantee us greater peace of mind.
Sure, it does require effort to become comfortable with using parental controls, but I’ve yet to hear from a parent who was sorry about taking the plunge.
I’m guessing that life will continue to get more complicated with each passing year. For now, getting all the tech safety concerns out of the way has been a relief.
Next up? Who knows.
I suspect the future parenting challenge may involve the tangle of romantic relationships mixed with potential career choices.
At that point in time, keeping my kid safe in a tech-forward world may seem like a piece of cake.