By Susan Heckler
We live in a wonderful era with modern conveniences at our finger tips. We have all noticed by now that this is a double edged sword. There are certain things we don’t want our children to have any access to, much less easy access. Technology has opened up many exciting benefits and opportunities for children and young people, but they can also present some risks. When used wisely, technology and media can support learning and relationships. Technology, for whatever good it does is becoming all pervasive, touching all areas of our society. Our youngsters have increasing access to personal technology such as web-enabled phones, tablets, watches and all sorts of gadgets. These items are not toys, they are tools which can help or harm. Even if your child doesn’t have his or her own computer, iPod, smartphone or tablet, many parents routinely hand over their own device for their children to use. Is there a way to allow them limited access? YES! GUIDELINES TO LIVE BY: • Start setting some boundaries and set time limits for activities such as using the Internet and games consoles. • Make sure devices like your mobile, tablet or laptop are out of reach. • Set up passwords/PINs and make sure you keep these details to yourself. • Set the parental controls to the appropriate age and enable access to only appropriate content. • The big four Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give their customers free parental controls, which can be activated at any time. • Buy or download only apps, games, online TV and films, which have age ratings. • When using public Wi-Fi – for example in cafés or hotels – remember that it might not include parental controls. • Share your technology rules with grandparents, babysitters and your child’s friends’ parents so that they know what to do when looking after your child. Buy or download parental control software, switch it on and keep it updated. Here’s a list of a few free or low-cost parental control apps that are worth a look: • Kidzui is a child-friendly browser for Windows PCs that limits kids’ usage to the child-friendly games and content on its network. (Paid) • Gube for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch limits download YouTube videos your child can access. (Paid) • Kido’z for Android phones & tablets and Windows PCs, allows kids to access only age-appropriate content. (Free) • Kid Mode for Android automatically locks kids into educational games and videos. There’s an iOS version too, but it doesn’t have the lock feature. (Free) • Kid’s Place is another Android app that only allows access to parent-approved apps, etc. It also includes time limit settings and other features. (Free) • Net Nanny provides loads of features to protect children on almost any device, including: Internet content filters, time limit management, social media monitoring, IM & Chat room monitoring, alerts/reports & remote management. Pricing varies by device. Our children of any age are certainly at a vulnerable stage in their lives. They are by nature more trusting than adults and at the same time more curious. Some of these potential issues which can arise from use of the web may be: • Inappropriate contact from people who may wish to abuse, exploit or bully them, Inappropriate conduct because of their own and others’ online behavior, • Inappropriate content being able to access or being sexually explicit, racist, violent, extremist or other harmful material, either through choice or in error. • Commercialism: being the targets of aggressive advertising and marketing messages. • Gaining access to your personal information stored on your computer, mobile device or games console, and passing it on to others … or using your financial details such as payment card information. • Enabling viruses and spyware by careless or misinformed use of their or your computer, smartphone, tablet or games console. Let’s face it, kids don’t come with instruction manuals for parents and, even if they did, have they been updated for the digital age? Be a smarter parent and have a safer kid!