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5 Ways parents can set digital ground rules

How to set boundaries for your child around the internet

Kids are going online at an increasingly younger age and are more digitally active than ever. It is also more than likely that you have a child or teenager who received his or her first mobile phone or tablet for the holiday.

Did you know...

  • 73 percent of teens and 75 percent of children ages 8 and under have access to some sort of smart mobile device at home
  • 68 percent of teens text every day
  • 51 percent of teens visit social networking sites daily

As we ring in the new year, make a family resolution to have “The Smart Talk” with your kids about how to use their digital devices safely. You need to know what kind of information or content your kids are sharing and explain the potential security risks with your child.

The Smart Talk allows you to set ground rules and boundaries for their smartphone and tablet use. These five tips will help you get started:

1. Limit the screen time usage

Be assertive about when your child can use their phone or tablet, where they use it and how. For instance, if your 8-year-old is using a tablet for playing app games and accessing learning tools for homework, set aside a certain number of hours after school and over the weekend to do this. If you are giving your 15-year-old permission to take a smartphone with him or her to school, collect his phone when he returns back home and for dinner and bedtime. Establish an “online” and “offline” schedule to create balance between the real world and the cyber world.

2. Activate privacy settings as needed

It’s better to be safe than sorry, but enabling security and privacy settings really depends on how your child uses the phone. Often times, parents provide smartphones for their children to keep in touch or in case of an emergency. You can also install a variety of smartphone and digital device features, such as location tracking, parental controls for Internet content and mobile usage monitoring apps.

3. Budget what will be in their data plan

Surfing social media and the Internet can get expensive. Select a monthly plan that best fits your needs and expected usage, so you don’t end up with unwanted fees. Then, set a contract restriction for a certain amount of texts, data and minutes per month. You can also purchase a refurbished or pre-paid smartphone to cut down on your overall costs.

4. Address health precautions and other risks

Teach your child about the potential risks of overusing smartphones and other digital devices. For teens, you need to stress no texting and driving. Also, research shows extended digital device use is linked to vision and muscle strain, as well as increased radiation from sleeping with devices. You can also talk to your kids about not getting caught up in negative conversations that could lead to cyberbullying.

5. Make a contract with your child or teen

Sit down and have a talk with your child about how he or she uses their smartphone and digital devices. The Smart Talk guides parents through a series of interactive questions with their children to inspire open dialogues about their online behaviors. Through this dialogue, parents and their children can build and customize an agreement.

I hope this gives you some insight to have smart conversations with your kids about their new gifts. Wishing everyone a safe, smart and happy new year!

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