When Should I Introduce My Kids to Technology? (A Guest Post by Kim DeLisle)

C:\Users\V\AppData\Local\Temp\ID-100292599.jpgWe all know that the internet can be a scary place. It harbors lots of inappropriate content, internet trolls who love to bully others, and a few other not-so-lovely things. However, it can also be a great place.
If you know how to protect yourself and your children when using the internet, utilizing technology can be a very positive experience. Technology isn’t just for entertainment; it can also be for education, which can be an important and helpful tool for any parent.
Other than the internet, there’s also a question as to when it’s appropriate to introduce your kids to other types of technology, such as television, iPods, tablets, and smartphones. Some children have smartphones or tablets by the time they’re able to talk, but not everyone (myself included) agrees that this is a good idea. Not only do I think it is a bad idea because of the potential negative effects of Wi-Fi on their health, but also because it can distract them from experiencing what life has to offer outside of technology.
With the way the world is today, there is no way to prevent your kids from knowing about and using these types of gadgets, but there is a time when it is appropriate and when it isn’t. So when should you introduce your kids to technology?

It All Depends On You

The slower you implement technology into your children’s lives, the better. It’s never a wise idea to purchase a tablet for them and let them have free run of it whenever they want. Start small.
You can start off by letting them play a game on your phone or computer as you supervise them, but don’t do this on a daily basis. You really don’t want your kids to get addicted to technology, as it could prevent them from living a healthy life. Remember that children should be learning from their parents and also from their own life experiences, rather than from a screen.
If you handle the introduction of technology into their lives properly, you can prevent it from being a negative experience for both you and your children. Teach them along the way and supervise them whenever they are using any sort of electronic. By the age of five, they should be learning how to use a computer, but any younger than that, and it’s really not necessary for them to be spending their time on these sorts of things.
Music players or television is something that is an exception. You can implement these things earlier on in their lives, just pay attention to the amount of time you are sitting them in front of the TV, rather than spending quality time with them. With the busyness of being a parent or working and just living life, it can be easy to forget that your child has spent half of their day watching television instead of learning, playing, and interacting with others.

When They Do Start Using Technology…

It’s extremely important that you teach them how to stay safe while using the computer, the internet, tablets, smartphones, etc. If they’re still a bit too young to understand what they should or shouldn’t be doing on the internet, consider installing parental controls.
If you use Mozilla Firefox as your web browser, they have a great parental control add-on called FoxFilter. With FoxFilter, you can create a list of keywords and websites that you consider either safe or unsafe for your children. This will keep them off of sites they shouldn’t be viewing, and you can easily turn off these blocks if you need to access certain pages.
Another great thing about FoxFilter is that your settings are password protected, which will prevent any of your kids from turning off the parental controls. There are also a variety of parental control apps available for your smartphone, some of which even limit the amount of time your children can spend on specific apps or websites, so they don’t over-do it.

Added Security

Because kids are not always as tech savvy as adults, there may be time when something “slips through the cracks” and ends up causing a whole lot of trouble for your computer. You can’t really blame them if this does occur; even adults fall for the tricks of internet scammers. To prevent this from happening, you should make sure that your smartphone, computer, and tablet are all properly secure.
You can start off by installing an anti-virus program, such as Panda Free AntiVirus, Avast!, or AVG. All of these companies also have anti-virus apps available for your smartphone and tablet. Just don’t forget to run a virus scan every so often, as it does not happen automatically (although there are filters to prevent viruses, you still need to scan)!
More importantly, you should secure your all of your devices with a Virtual Private Network (known more commonly as a VPN). A VPN is important to have because it protects the identity and location of your children, as well as anyone else who will be using the internet on the device it is installed on. In basic terms, it does this by encrypting, or securing, your internet connection.
The VPN itself is a remote server which will act on your behalf, sending and receiving your requests on the internet. All of your online activity is routed through the VPN, so when you visit a website, the VPN’s IP address and location will be received by the site instead of your own. The connection of the VPN itself protects you from hackers, as hacking into an encrypted connection can be a hard and time-consuming process.
Just like with anti-virus programs, there are tons of VPNs to choose from, some of which may be lacking in quality compared to others. Since kids are most likely to be spending most of their internet time on gaming (whether for entertainment or also educational purposes), it would be wise to pick up the best VPN for online gaming, rather than one that is better suited for other online activities.

Other Ways You Can Protect Your Kids

Safety is going to be the number one concern for anyone who allows their kids to use the internet. The net is being incorporated into modern electronics more so than ever before, so it’s especially important to start teaching your children about the dangers that can go along with using the World Wide Web. Many gadgets, including TVs, are being marketed as “smart,” meaning that they have the capability to connect to and use the internet in order to provide the consumer with more flexibility and options.
However, this can sometimes be a bad thing, because not only do these devices leave you open to hackers who can invade your privacy, but it also opens up a lot of new ways for your kids to get into things that are not age appropriate. Even game systems can connect to the internet, so one of the first things you should do (besides the above mentioned tips) is teach your children what sort of information they should avoid sharing if they happen to stumble upon an online chatroom.
Let them know that is isn’t acceptable to share any sort of personal information over the internet. This means that they shouldn’t share their full names (first names or nicknames shouldn’t be much of an issue), address, location, the name of their school, or anything that can make it so someone can find the details of their identity or actual location. Another piece of information that they shouldn’t share is their login details for any online accounts.
You can also help them stay safe by letting them know that they should avoid visiting any unfamiliar websites or hyperlinks. The internet is full of untrustworthy people, and that is something that you should be open about with your children. Most importantly, teach them the difference between reality and the net; just because you see something online does not mean it is right, real, or acceptable outside of the internet.
This is an important lesson because it can be hard for children to separate right from wrong and fantasy from reality, which is one of the things that can make the internet so dangerous for kids.

So Which Age Is The Right Age?

Simply put, when you should introduce your kids to technology is really up to you. If you feel that your child is ready to use the internet, or even play on your smartphone apps, then the choice is yours. Just realize when it is too much for them and pay attention to what they are doing with their new-found digital freedom.
If you keep technology safe and educate your children on the proper way to use it, these gadgets can be very helpful and rewarding tools for kids of almost any age.

This is a guest post by Kim DeLisle - admitted tech junkie and blogger for www.securethoughts.com

Now, it's your turn...

When did you introduce your kids to technology? How did you ensure that they stay safe?

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