Kids of all ages use technology, whether it’s a video amusing a preschooler or a photo app delighting a high school senior. While technology gives us the ability to stay connected, entertained and informed, excessive and inappropriate use of it can cause serious problems.
Studies show too much tech time can lead to attention problems, lower academic performance, family dysfunction, obesity, and sleep and eating disorders. There’s also privacy dangers and the possibility of something today coming back to haunt you tomorrow.
“My teen patients don’t take the risks of technology seriously,” says Eric S. Perez, M.D., pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “They don’t yet have the life experience to understand how a post on Facebook could keep them from getting a job one day or put them at risk for sexual abuse. Parents have to educate them about the dangers out there.”
Dr. Perez shares six tips to help you teach your kids to use technology safely.
- Talk to your kids about how they use the internet — Depending on their age, kids use different websites, apps and social media platforms – check in with your children and ask which ones they’re using. You should also tell your kids which ones you do not want them to use.
- Set privacy features — Work with your kids to set strict privacy features on all the social networking channels they use: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Go through each channel and check the settings together.
- Get familiar with social media — Join the same social channels your children use and have a policy that you “friend” and “follow” each other. You can also friend and follow the same pages and accounts as your kids.
- Ask kids about their daily activities — Start conversations with your kids about their online habits. Ask questions like “Which photos and videos did you like today?” and “Did you see what was trending?”
- Discourage tech multitasking — Sometimes being immersed online results in injuries in real life. Caution kids of all ages about using mobile devices while walking, biking or doing other things that require their full attention – and remember to teach by example.
- Teach teens about distracted driving — A major cause of car crashes in the U.S. is distracted driving, which is often caused because the driver was using a cell phone. In California, drivers are required to use hands-free equipment when making calls or using the GPS function on cell phones while driving, and all forms of reading, writing or sending messages while driving is prohibited. And obviously, don’t live stream while driving.