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February 26, 2015

As a parent, how do we react to this technology and how kids are using it? What do we need to know?

Over the last few years, I have written a presentation for parents titled “Protecting Your Children: How to Take Control”. The presentation is designed to give parents valuable advice on how to protect their kids from the dangers of the internet, and bad decision-making when it comes to its use.

The underlying message of the speech is that parents have the right and a need to take control of the technology kids are using. Some of the recommendations are extreme and would be used if a child/teen is in a dangerous situation.

This is a multi-part blog entry that provides the reader with ten (10) recommendations. This entry is the introduction to the subject and the first three recommendations. Please stay tuned for the remaining two blog entries.

Several years ago, as I was collecting notes on this subject, my Dad’s voice kept playing in my mind. As a teenager, he would always tell me, “You can’t get away with anything…. I’ve already done it all!”

As I thought about that, I realized that even though I tried, he was right. Most of us can’t say that to our kids, as the world of technology has changed quickly. Our kids have grown up with technology that wasn’t available to us at their age.

Most of us did not grow up with digital cameras, cell phones, laptops, texting and maybe even the internet (now I’m aging myself). I won’t even mention that I remember having three channels and a black and white TV.

So back to reality…. As a parent, how do we react to this technology and how kids are using it? What do we need to know?

My top ten list of recommendations are as follows:

  1. Data and electronic communications should be considered permanent. Teach your kids to assume that posted and sent pictures and other information will turn up when they have children of their own.

Just because something is deleted from Facebook and other Social Media Sites, doesn’t mean that it is gone for good. Things have a way of re-appearing when they are least expected. Search engines (like Google and Yahoo) are constantly indexing web content and making off-line copies that can be retrieved in the future. Everything is preserved somewhere.

Parents can conduct a few simple steps to see what information about their kids/teens is publicly available. Use a search engine, like Google, to search based on your child’s name and phone number. For better results, use “” marks around the name and search for variations as follows:

  • “Joseph F. Doe.”
  • “Doe, Joseph.”
  • “Joseph Franklin Doe.”
  • “(616) 555-1235.”
  • “616-555-1235.”

See what information comes up.

Does your child have a Facebook, Twitter or other Social Media Page?  If they do, display it and use Google Image Search to see where else their picture(s) are being used.

  1. Invest in good internet filtering and parental controls. It’s easier than it sounds.

Many new, mid to high-end home internet routers include services that provide a parent with the ability to configure parental controls, time of day limits, and the ability to block offensive websites. If your home internet router is a few years old, it may be time to replace it with a device that provides you with greater control.

In addition, internet services such as OpenDNS can be used to restrict the types of websites that can be accessed from your home.

Parental Controls can also be implemented on your child’s PC.  In Windows 7 and 8, you can setup a unique password that allows you to make these changes and keep your child from turning them off. Windows 8 also allows you to set a computer allowance for time of use.

Most Smartphones, like an Apple iPhone, can have parental controls turned on that limit use of the camera, in-app purchases, and restrict web browser access to adult content.

  1. Keep your password a secret. Teach your kids to keep theirs a secret as well, except when it comes to you.  As parents, you should know every password your children use… always!

Keep a record of the password for your child’s computer, smartphone, email addresses, Apple ID password, etc. Know the password they use for Facebook, Twitter, and other websites. Insist that you always know the account and password information. No exceptions. It doesn’t mean that you will invade their privacy, but it may be necessary in the event of an emergency or if you suspect a dangerous situation.

Be on alert for “apps” that may be age-inappropriate for use by a child. Applications like:

  • Kik
  • Tinder
  • Snapchat
  • And others….

Know the purpose and use of every app on your child’s phone.

Stay tuned for the next two parts of this series. Want more information? Are you interested in having Scott speak for a parenting group?  Let us know how we can help.



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