If you ask parents and kids what their favorite days of the year are, many of the answers will be similar – but there’ll be one key difference. And that day comes to certain days of school…
Kids’ favorite school day is typically the last day of the academic year: the onset of summer and freedom – what could be better? Hell, Alice Cooper even wrote a song about it.
For parents, this day is often dreaded: it leads to their having to add roles of entertainer, chauffer, chef, nanny, etc. to their regular day-to-day parenting tasks and/or employment. Parents’ fave school day of the year is the one kids dread the most – the first day of school!
While my colleague Alexey Andreev gave some good back-to-school tips the other day, I wanted to take an approach that’s more reflective on the things that I’ve helped my kids with, and which I hope might help other parents – especially given how interconnected devices are now in the learning experience.
Let’s face it, our kids are going through life in a way that was quite frankly unimaginable – or science fiction – to us as we were growing up. I’m in my 40s, so my younger years saw computers only starting to appear in homes, and internet was dial-up. We learned as the platforms and technology grew.
However, our kids have been online in some way, shape or form since they came into the world (true “digital natives”). You more than likely posted pics of your new baby as a semi-internet brag (no shame there). But for kids, both the internet and digital devices have always been an integral part of their lives – and are tied to the classroom as well.
As the new school year kicks off, it’s good to remind our kids that online conversations are similar to those that take place in person – albeit behind a computer screen. While we all know that there are nuanced differences – kids are smart and will learn this – it’s important to let them know that there are consequences for actions done online – just as offline. Quite simply for parents, this should mean letting them know how to be good human beings both offline and on.
Devices: when to use them – and when not
We held off on getting our kids mobile devices. We felt that reaching middle school was the right time, since they were across town and had many afterschool activities; however, this of course varies from family to family.
With great power comes great responsibility – Uncle Ben, Spiderman
Similar to Peter Parker’s powers, a phone is the ultimate tool for kids: they can connect to anyone at any time. As parents, it’s our job to balance “power and responsibility” for our kids, and not only preach about when it’s OK to be on their devices at school, but also when they shouldn’t be on them. This can be while hanging out with friends, at the dinner table, and anywhere in-between.
There are rules – and there are consequences if they’re not followed.
If our kids don’t follow the mobile device rules at school, there’s a good chance they’ll have the device confiscated. However, we also need to make sure they know what’s OK and what’s not OK regarding what’s done on their phones – from apps used to sites visited.
To do this, there need to be some restrictions set by parents. Now, in no way should this be done sneakily. It should be some kind of pact with the kids where they’re aware of why the restrictions are needed. Some parents do it by knowing their kids’ passwords and always being able to look at their devices, but for us – we wanted something a bit more manageable and that we could show to our son.
For us, this was a combination of Google Family and Kaspersky Safe Kids. We feel each of these offer adequate options, but we wanted both – for an added sense of ease.
Each week we look at the stats, what he’s done online, and also ask him why he wants to install a given app if it seems to make sense. We’d done earlier this with his Chromebook, too, so he was already used to the “format”.
Looking at the numbers allows us to ask why he spent so much time on this or that, and show him that while we don’t look at all sites and videos he’s watched on YouTube, we could. He appreciates this. However, we also showed him that we’re able to lock his devices – so he’d better stay on point!
Free Wi-Fi! Or is it?
While we can help our son understand the ways to be a good human online, one thing that we have to continue to teach him is security.
Perhaps the most important is about Wi-Fi – it’s often “free” everywhere, and faster than mobile, so wanting to connect is understandable. We stress to our kids the hidden dangers of Wi-Fi (email and/or phone number submission, etc.), as well as the potential for malicious actors messing with Wi-Fi access.
While it’s common to think “no one wants my info” or “who cares who sees what I am doing online”, it’s still something that we need to help educate our kids on (for example, through useful Kaspersky resources; see the below list of links). Free is not always the best – especially when it comes to the choices of data trading.
I believe that if we teach kids about thinking through connecting to Wi-Fi with questionable provenance, this knowledge will eventually spread to their networks of friends and classmates – and hopefully to a smarter and more secure next generation online.
No matter what you do with your kids when it comes to devices (we don’t judge), we hope that you’re taking security and safety into consideration. If you need some more tips, take a look through the articles below:
- Back-to-school threats: gadgets
- Keeping kids safe: a new variation on an old theme
- Protecting teens’ mental health on social media
- How to protect your credit card from small kids or from a young gamer
- How to help children adapt to the digital world
- How to set up good parental control
P.S. All these tips are also good for parents as well.