‘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 by providing some parental control guidance for digital Christmas gifts.
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 our own polls of tweens and teens, YouTube is the most popular app destination for teens. Internet Live Stats reports that over 81,000 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
TikTok STORMS onto the Social Media Scene
Just when we thought there wasn’t room for another massive social networking platform, here comes TikTok, which has lingered toward the top of the most downloaded app of 2019 for much of the year. The level of creativity being displayed by kids through their TikTok videos is insane, but so is the easy access that predators and just creepy voyeurs have to young kids through their short videos.
We met with Senator Marsha Blackburn’s office in November to discuss her letter to TikTok, requesting that they come clean about child privacy. In a first step, TikTok raised the age of in-app purchases from 13 to 18 to discourage the use of TikTok’s in-app emoji’s, which can be converted to cash by the recipient.
Related post: TikTok Parental Controls
Instagram’s Polished Reputation is Taking Hits
Instagram’s self-harm, predatory, and trafficking risks were popular news stories during 2019. Please keep this in mind when handing out devices with new apps this holiday season. Forbes featured our testing of Instagram’s decency policy, our predator testing went viral, and Molly Russell’s father made it his mission to tell the world about Instagram’s role in hastening his young daughter’s suicide.
Related post: Instagram Finsta and Spam Accounts. A Guide for Parents.
Snapchat is Fun but not Meant for Kids
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 age-gates some most risqué articles, it’s still too easy to access hoards of pornographic content through Snapchat’s many back doors.
Related post: Pornhub is on Snapchat and Parents have no Idea
Online Gaming by the MILLIONS! Fortnite, Twitch, and Discord 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. Discord allows gamer kids to connect with each other in a form of gamer-approved social media.
“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.
Give Digital Christmas 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
- Fire Stick – on the way
- Google Chromecast – on the way
- Apple TV – on the way
Throughout each of these device profiles, you’ll see parental control suggestions. Don’t forget this important step! Recently, our team spent over 50 hours analyzing and testing 13 of the top iPhone/iPad parental control solutions on the market today. We did the work for you! Please take just a few minutes to make sure you’re covered:
Related post: The Best iPhone Parental Control Solutions 2019
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.
Chris McKenna, Founder: A man with never ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, and podcasts for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation and on-going discussion that could radically change online child protection laws and earned PYE the NCOSE Dignity Defense Alert Award in 2020. The PYE team has performed over 1,300 presentations at schools, churches, and nonprofits and was featured in the Childhood 2.0 movie. When not leading PYE, Chris is the Digital Marketing Manager for Covenant Eyes. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, nature, and candy.