Don’t Let Devices Ruin Your Holiday! 12 Tech Tips for Parents
The Christmas Tech Safety Countdown is On!
In just a few weeks, the kids are going to toss their backpacks and school books aside for a well-earned break. This also means that they will be looking for things to do! Some of those things will inevitably involve tech. Before your kids get settled in for the holidays, take a few minutes to go over these twelve tech tips for parents to plan and enjoy a memorable time with your family. They can also serve as a “tech tune up” for areas that you want to address in 2020.
Tip #12: Get your safety settings in place
Before you wrap up any tech gifts with cameras, microphones or location tracking, take some time to review the security and privacy options that are associated with them.
Don’t hesitate to open up the packaging and plug in the device to see how it works. Then change the generic passwords and disable any cameras or location trackers.
Ideally, before you purchase the toy you will have searched for reviews and news specifically relating to complaints about security issues. Here are some places to find a security or privacy overview on an item you are considering purchasing:
- Mozilla publishes a useful guide to help consumers when shopping for internet-connected items.
- Internet Matters has a step-by-step privacy and parental settings guide for each of the major online areas including mobile phones, social media, mobile networks, and search engines. Look for your product in their drop-down menu lists.
Tip #11: Plan for tech-free activities over the holidays
This is best done ahead of time, especially if there will be tech toys under the tree. Of course, you want your kids to enjoy their new devices, but also plan for blocks of time when you can have device-free family fun.
Here’s an idea! Bring out a physical calendar after dinner one evening. Rather than talk about what kids can’t do (e.g., play too many video games), turn it into a fun discussion of what you will do as a family. Everyone should contribute to the idea wish list. And then book it right into your calendar. If there is equipment required (e.g., skates), try to have it located and ready to go before you need it on the day.
Tip #10: Set boundaries when visiting family and friends
This is a tricky one because it involves our loved ones, and potentially hurt feelings, but it’s important to be proactive. Your tech rules will likely be different from your sister-in-law’s or cousin’s family. So, if her kids have unfiltered access to social media, how can you bridge the gap between your family’s expectations while still enjoying one another’s company and also keeping your kids tech-safe?
One idea is to bring over some physical board games or other non-tech toys to keep the kids busy and provide some fun time away from their screens. When you see the devices come out at a family gathering, you can let your relatives know that your family keeps all devices in common areas and not bedrooms or behind closed doors. This way the kids can still have fun but also be supervised by adults.
Tip #9: Learn (and teach your kids) to create great passwords
There is a process to creating a great password, or what some like to call a passphrase: a collection of random words that are turned into a memorable phrase. They are harder to hack than conventional upper and lower case strings of numbers and letters and they are much longer in length (while also being easier to remember). This is a useful video to pass on to your teen or to watch with your tween to help her secure her accounts and devices:
Tip #8: Enjoy the new tech or devices with your kids
If they’ve received a new video game or tech toy, have fun exploring together. You will better understand how the technology works, and, more importantly, you will create an opportunity to bond with your child.
Tip #7: Watch out for unsafe or problematic apps on phones
Even after you’ve set the appropriate parental settings on your child’s devices, continue to monitor her phone for popular but inappropriate social media apps and games. Many of the lesser known ones come and go very quickly.
It can be nearly impossible to stay on top of what your child is doing on all these apps. Bark is an app that monitors text messages, YouTube, emails and social networks for potential safety concerns to help you stay on top of things.
Note: The link to Bark is an affiliate link. Thank you for supporting Protect Young Minds!
Tip #6: Substitute your phone with a digital camera
Why is this on the list? Photo taking – especially selfies – will generally surge during any holiday. Here’s an idea: try using a digital camera for some of your holiday events and ditching the phone. You could also turn this into a gift idea for your tween or teen and help to foster new skills in photography. There are many great point-and-shoot cameras on the market and, combined with an excursion in the outdoors, it can be a pathway for new adventures.
Tip #5: Test your child’s device against Santa’s “nice list”
Here’s a festive way to think about your child’s online safety. Take the “Nice Device List” quiz for a safety checklist this holiday.
Tip #4: Set a digital curfew
It’s the holidays, so kids will inevitably be up later. But don’t let it stretch into night after night of video gaming until too late. The artificial blue light from electronic devices is known to interfere with your body’s sleep quality. Consider setting a digital curfew that has everyone shut off their devices for the evening at least half an hour (preferably more) before bed. (Nothing spoils the holidays faster than cranky, sleep-deprived kids!)
Tip #3: Prepare your kids for negative online experiences
Talk to your kids about what to do if they experience or see something negative or pornographic online.
To prepare them for cyberbullying, use the code Stop, Block, and Tell. Stop what activity they are doing; block the person if they are on a game or social media site; and then tell a trusted adult right away.
Also be sure to prepare them for pornography exposure. The Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of books are a great way to do this!
Tip #2: Remind kids about their digital footprint
Teens will likely want to share on their social media photos of themselves during the holidays. Be intentional about having a tech-safety conversation with your teen and remind him that what he shares online cannot be easily removed or deleted. For teens, it’s especially important to know that future employers will likely be doing searches of their online presence through social media.
Tip #1: Be a good role model
This is the most important tip since kids will see very quickly if we are practicing what we are preaching when it comes to devices and screen time. If you find yourself spending too much time scrolling through social media in the presence of your kids, take some time this holiday to do your own digital detox.
The holidays are a wonderful time to bond with your kids and make some great family memories. With some proactive tech tip planning, they can also be safe and stress-free for everyone.