Tech Safety During the Holidays: 5 Proactive Tips for Family Gatherings
The holiday season is full of opportunities to gather with family and friends. With that comes a bit of chaos and it can be easy to lose track of what everyone is doing at a party. Plus, your child will be surrounded by more devices–smartphones, VR (virtual reality) headsets, smart TVs, and more–which may not have the same rules and protections as your family’s devices do.
Here are 5 simple tips to keep kids safe from pornography and abuse at all those holiday gatherings.
5 simple tips to keep kids safe from pornography and abuse
1. Decide on tech rules before the party
Here are some things to consider:
- Is your child bringing a phone to the party? Where and when can they use it?
- If another person pulls out a phone, is your child allowed to look at it with them? Take selfies?
- Do adults need to be involved in selecting a movie to watch?
If you have young children, a conversation about rules might sound like this:
“We’re going to this party to spend time with your cousins. We’re not going to watch TV or look at anyone’s phone while we’re there.”
Explain that if a cousin or adult wants to show them something on a device, they can say “I have to check with my mom (or dad) first.”
Also be sure to teach or review body safety rules. Not sure where to start? Check out our Body Safety Toolkit.
If your children are older and have phones of their own, some talking points with them could be:
- “We’re going to spend time with family. I will hold onto your phone during the party; you can check it occasionally while in the living room.”
- “Please don’t start a movie in the basement without permission from me and the other adults first.”
- If someone wants to show them something on a device, they can ask, “What do you want to show me? Is it appropriate?”
For children young and old, make sure to explain the why behind the rules: “All of these things will help keep you safe from seeing pornography or other inappropriate things.”
2. Teach your kids what to do if they see pornography at the party
Before you enter the party, remind your child they will not be in trouble if they do see pornography, and to come and tell you. Go over the best way to get your attention - some families decide on a code word the child uses to tell a parent they need help (without having to say what’s wrong in front of everyone).
Would your child recognize pornography as a danger if they saw it? If you haven’t talked with them about pornography yet, here’s a list of resources to use with children as young as 3 years old:
- Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds makes it easy for parents to protect young children ages 3-6 with the Turn, Run & Tell plan!
- Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids is a read-aloud story for ages 7-12 about a mom and dad who explain what pornography is, why it’s dangerous, and how to reject it.
- Brain Defense: Digital Safety® Course is an engaging, video-based course for kids ages 7-12 to keep them safe from cyber-bullying, pornography and internet addiction.
- How to Talk to Kids About Pornography: Quick Start Guide A free guide for parents with important facts about pornography and tips for starting the conversation at any age.
3. Work with the host to create technology zones
Your next step is to recruit others to help keep kids safe from pornography. It is helpful to talk with your host to decide on screen-free zones in the home: “We’d love for there to be some boundaries on when and where technology is used tonight to help keep everyone safe. Is it okay if the basement is a screen-free zone? Where would you like the kids and adults to gather to use the VR set?”
When you decide on a room for technology, make sure 2 or more adults are in there throughout the party. We find most adults are eager to help enforce these rules.
4. Check in with your kids regularly
You’ve laid a great foundation for protecting your kids, but the work’s not done. It’s normal for kids and adults to flock to different parts of the home. It’s easy to lose track of time while chatting with others. Consider setting a timer on your phone. This will remind you to grab a tray of snacks to give out as you check in on everyone.
As adults enforce the technology rules and make themselves visible, opportunities for pornography exposure and sexual abuse go down.
5. Come prepared with a screen-free activity
It can go a long way to keep kids off screens if you come prepared with an activity. Keep it simple–we know you have a lot on your plate already!
Here are a few ideas:
- Play Don’t Eat Pete, a free printable game from Home & Kind.
- Bring a favorite board game.
- Gather everyone for Pictionary or charades.
This activity doesn’t have to last the whole party. Even a 20 minute game is worth your effort–you’re teaching generations how to interact and have fun without screens.
Bonus Tip: Check in with your child after the party
Don’t forget to check in with each of your children at the end of the party–while driving or doing dishes together are great times to talk. Ask questions like:
- What was your favorite part of the night? Least favorite?
- Did everyone follow the tech rules?
- Did anything happen that felt uncomfortable or outside of our family values?
Give these 5 (actually 6!) tips a try this holiday season - it will bring you more peace at parties knowing your family is prepared.
Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition
"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent