KidsPrivacy is back from summer break and scrambling to get ready for school. Like many families, the easy days of summer led to a softening of rules especially around tech. Without the pressure of homework and bedtime, phone chargers crept upstairs and screen time became all the time.
For us, September is the month of realignment. To help families get back on track, here is a list of 10 of my most popular Back to School Tech Tips for Families.
Top 10 Tech Tips for Families
Set a password/pincode on devices.
Phones contain a great deal of personal information. Without a password, if it is lost or stolen, anyone who finds it will have access to open accounts, texts, phone numbers, etc. Friends, in an attempt at humor, may also access an open phone and send a not so funny message. The easiest way to avoid all this trouble is to set a password on the device.
Change old passwords
Parents should talk with kids about setting and periodically changing passwords on their apps and devices. Kids should not share passwords with friends but some do. As the move on to a new grade or a new school, friendships may change. A good rule is new grade = new password.
Update Apps & Software
Kids with a phone tight on space may neglect to update software and apps. While these files take up more space, these updates often contain important security patches. Kids and teens should delete apps they are not using and keep all current apps up to date. If possible, they should make security software updates automatic.
We teach children to lock the doors before leaving the house or car. In the same way, parents need to remind them to lock up their accounts. Before they leave a computer or device, they need to make sure they lock the door by logging out. If they only close the window (hitting the X in the right hand corner), their account is left wide open and the next person who sits at the computer or picks up their phone can get in.
Create or Update your Family Phone Contract
Sitting down together and drafting a contract is a great way to share values and expectations around online behavior. These agreements can range from a few simple rules to multi-page documents. Whatever their length, a contract outlines rules, expectations and consequences. Children should know these contracts are not punitive but designed to keep them safe while teaching them to share smart online. For ideas on what to include, KidsPrivacy has a family device contract.
Check your Digital Reputation
One of the simplest privacy lessons is to sit down together and search for your child’s name online. As they get older, many people, including employers and future roommates, will get to know them first by checking them out online before meeting them face to face. Managing their digital reputation is an important life skill and searching for their name is the first step.
Deactivate and delete old social networks.
Teenage MySpace pages, abandoned in 2006, can still appear in search results today. For many adults, who have forgotten their teenage email accounts and passwords, these pages cannot be deleted. To avoid this fate, teens should delete networks they are not using before they become a permanent reminder of their teenage years.
Catch up on the popular social networks
Parents should be familiar with the most popular social networks. One does not need to be an expert on Snapchat but parents should generally know what kids can share on each network, how they message each other and what type of restrictions and settings the app offers. To get started, check out my app reviews for Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Kik, Vine, Tumblr and YouTube.
Participate in Tech Free Activities
Families should look for positive ways to take a digital break. Taking a hike outside of cell coverage or putting the phone away for dinner can allow parents and kids a chance to decompress and relax.
Set a Strong example
Although last, this is the most important. Parents should model a healthy technology diet. By carving out device free time, limiting distractions and choosing healthy digital activities, parents can show kids how to incorporate technology in a positive way.