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Everywhere you turn technology appears to have firmly entrenched itself in most of our everyday conveniences. While some of these technological advantages are seemingly benign and geared to help us streamline tedious or time-consuming tasks, technology also manages to create situations that can be potentially detrimental or hazardous. To what extent is largely determined by the user who is typically able to gauge these risks and make educated decisions regarding his or her use of them. However, for young kids making these decisions it is not as easy for them to determine how much is too much of a good thing.
Parents Guidance: A Double-Edged SwordDetermining what technologies are appropriate for young children is obviously a task designated for parents and guardians but there is a problematic reality present in these guiding decisions. Children and young adults are typically better versed in new technology than the parents and adults in their life.
Unlike older adults or even adults from just the next generation, children are often born into technology, exposed from a very early age to some of the most technologically advanced gadgets available on the market. Unfortunately kids are not going on the internet to compare car insurance rates or researching additional disability insurance protection, they are going on to the internet to connect to the outside world. The internet now provides an important facet of socialization and context for the world around them.
How then can parents begin to conceive of what technologies are appropriate when they themselves may have a very basic or inadequate understanding of them? Parents and guardians can begin by asking themselves these basic questions:
- How comfortable or knowledgeable am I in monitoring what my kids look at or have access to online?
- Do I have the ability or know-how to restrict my children’s phone calls or text messages?
- Do I know enough about laptops, computers, smart phones, or other gadgets to determine my children’s appropriate use of them?
The Real Risk to ChildrenSo what kind of risks are children really facing in today’s technologically savvy world? Most of the time we think the risks are from sexually inappropriate materials but the truth is the real risk to children is far greater and may come from a source much closer to home.
Children at Risk in Multiple Ways
- Cyberbullying via chat rooms, texting, and social networking sites
- Viruses and malware designed to extract sensitive information from your computer
- Exploitation or manipulation by “friends,” adults, or strangers
- Financial exploitation or theft if they have access to finances
- Exposure to pornography, violence, and inappropriate materials
- Exploitation by radical “social groups,” cults, or trendy fads
- Access to incorrect and potentially harmful information especially in regards to anorexia, bulimia, and self-mutilation
Fortunately, parents and guardians do not have to despair. Many resources, programs, and educational material exist for those looking to make sure their kids can access today’s technology safely and in an appropriate way.
Allowing Access to today’s Technology
- Kid’s Health.org offers a guide to “internet safety”
- Common Sense Media.com hosts an excellent database of informational videos and articles on being cyber smart
- Safe Kids.com offers “A Parent’s Guide to Facebook”
For questions or more information feel free to contact
- Your children’s school – ask about what kind of safeguards are in place for children using computers and internet
- The local police department can often provide tips and tools for parents looking to safeguard their children
- Your internet provider, cell phone company, and cable company usually provide special parental controls to help parents monitor and restrict activity
Another less obvious resource but no less important are other parents and guardians. Getting together with the parents of your children’s friends is a great way to share strategies in addition to establishing expectations. Often children will go to other houses to gain access to inappropriate material.
Make sure all parents are on the same page and there is a game plan in place should a parent discover either child is gaining access to unwanted media or engaging in inappropriate behaviors.
The real question of whether young kids should have access to today’s technology is a complex one. With technology making its way into schools, gaming arenas, and in the home, shielding kids from all technology is becoming more and more difficult. The true answer is every parent and guardian must make the personal decision of how much is too much of a good thing.