14 Nov A Parent’s Guide to Holiday Tech Purchases
‘Tis the Holiday Season to Give Digital Gifts!
Hello, Parents! Once again, the Protect Young Eyes team wants to prepare you and your children for the holidays. We were inspired to join the seasonal conversation, and show our support alongside other child safety organizations, cybersecurity experts, and privacy advocates. To help parents make informed decisions this holiday season, we’re discussing some important topics worth covering before making a purchase.
Before Gifting Electronics, Consider This
Instead of focusing so much on what kind of device to buy your child this holiday season, instead ask yourself if you’re ready to teach your kid how to use it well and to monitor the device regularly. Remember, there’s no quantity of parental controls that replace the need for intentional parenting in the digital age.
If you’re not willing or able to monitor the device, then you probably shouldn’t purchase the device.
Think of it this way – would you give your young child a bike and just say, “good luck”? Never! You would likely take great care teaching him or her how to ride it. Would you ever just hand your child a set of car keys at age 15, without a permit or driver’s training? Never! Then, why do we constantly do this with electronics that are connected to the rest of the world?
Popular Digital Playgrounds
With new tech comes new access. Here are a few notes about four digital playgrounds that are popular with young people. Parents should have deep knowledge about these four spaces before handing out holiday tech.
YouTube is the King of Teen Internet Consumption
According to a May 2018 poll, YouTube is the most popular app destination for teens. Internet Live Stats reports that over 76,000 videos are watched every second of every day! There isn’t a labor force large enough, or machine learning tool smart enough, to monitor every upload. Adding to the fire is recent news of extremist content and sexualized videos, all directed at children. These and other risk factors require parents to closely monitor what teens are consuming through this influential application.
Related post: YouTube Parental Controls
Instagram’s Polished Reputation is Taking Hits
Instagram’s harassment and pornography issues were popular news stories during 2018. Please keep this in mind when handing out devices with new apps this holiday season. Forbes featured our summer testing of Instagram’s decency policy and recently the Atlantic wrote an in-depth, heart-wrenching piece about the hate and cruel behavior that is rampant on the app.
Related post: Instagram Finsta and Spam Accounts. A Guide for Parents.
Snapchat is Fun but Frightening
Duck face. Dog face. Hot dog filter. Snapstreaks and Snap Maps. If anything you just read made sense, then congratulations! You’re familiar with at least a few features in Snapchat. But have you heard of Snapchat Discover? If not, then you’re missing out on edgy content and the latest pop culture news.
Although the app now age-gates its most risqué articles, it recently pushed parental tolerance by allowing the Cosmo After Dark segment to run this past May.
Online Gaming by the MILLIONS! Fortnite and Twitch rule.
Kids today don’t just play games online, but they also love watching other gamers play online. The live-streaming app of choice is Twitch, boasting over 2 million streams per hour.
“Live streaming” your gaming feed is a rush, but one that comes with great risk. It’s important to discuss the do’s and don’ts of live streaming and dangers of cyberbullying. Furthermore, you should elaborate on the risks associated with unknown downloads that could contain different types of malware.
Give Digital Gifts – But, Here’s How to Monitor and Control Them.
Each link will take you to instructions for monitoring and controlling popular digital devices before they show up under the Christmas tree:
- Amazon Echo
- Google Home
- iPhone, iPad, iPod
- Kindle Fire HD
- Laptop (MacBook)
- The wireless router
- Nintendo 3DS
- Nintendo Switch
- Laptop (PC)
- PlayStation 4 (including VR)
- Roku Streaming Video
- Smart TV
- Wii U
Throughout each of these device profiles, you’ll see parental control suggestions. Don’t forget this important step! At a minimum, use clean DNS, which is the most under-utilized parental control (free) out there. For monitoring social media, for $9/month there’s Bark – they’re the best. For a great dashboard of activity across multiple devices, then layer on Mobicip (only $39.99/year for 10 devices).
There are hundreds of parental control solutions out there. These are the ones we trust for younger kids (< high school).
Finally, Be Realistic About Digital Risk
Here’s the truth – most kids are doing good, positive, productive things on their devices most of the time. But, remember this:
“Don’t live in the fantasy of “if.” In the digital age, parents who win are often parents who live in the reality of “when.”
In other words, no matter how hard you try, it’s not a matter of “if” your child will experience something inappropriate, difficult, or cruel online. It’s only a matter of when! We must prepare our kids for the “when” with persistent and consistent conversations about all of the inappropriate, difficult, cruel (and often awkward) things that no one ever talked to us about.
Are you hungry for examples of how these conversations might sound? Consider listening to this podcast during your next drive.