5 Important Digital Rules for Kids and Teens

Stacy Zeiger on Mar 5, 2015

Before setting kids free in the digital world, parents want to make sure they’ll be safe. While parents can’t control the actions of strangers, they can control the access kids have to people who make poor decisions and make sure their kids are making good choices when they engage in the digital world. This starts by creating and enforcing digital rules that kids must follow whenever they interact with technology.

Just like all households have different everyday rules, parents should choose specific digital rules based on the needs of their kids. However, there are a few components that all sets of digital rules should contain to help ensure kids stay safe and make sure they develop good digital habits.

Setting Time Limits

Time limits let kids know when and how long they can enjoy technology on a daily basis. For example, parents may not allow kids to use their smartphones after 9 p.m. or only allow an hour each day for playing internet games. Time limits help ensure kids don’t spend their entire day behind computer screen and that their digital devices don’t distract them from more important activities, such as completing their homework or engaging in conversation with the family around the dinner table. Like with all digital rules, time limits will vary from kid to kid. For example, a three-year-old may only have an hour of internet access each day, but a nine-year-old may have four hours of internet access each day because he needs to conduct research or get homework help online.

Limiting Access to Content

Parents often don’t bat an eye at limiting access to certain books, movies, or music. Yet many don’t think to limit access to the digital content. Limiting access starts with blocking access to inappropriate apps and websites. It can also involve deciding who kids can call or text and determining which social media sites are appropriate for them to join. Not all limits have to involve complete bans on content either. Parents may decide kids can only visit a particular website with parental supervision or may temporarily limit access to a social media site because it proved to be too much of a distraction. Organizations such as Common Sense Media regularly rate apps and websites to determine their appropriateness for kids and can be a reliable source when it comes to deciding what apps or websites you allow your child to access.

Monitoring Social Media

Often kids will say and do things online that they wouldn’t dream of doing in real-life. The lack of physical contact can convince kids they won’t get in trouble or that their words and photos won’t have negative consequences in the digital sphere. However, when kids know their social media use is being monitored, they’re more likely to consider the weight or their words and the appropriateness of their pictures before they post them for all the friends – and sometimes all the world – to see. Monitoring social media also gives parents a chance to protect kids should any friends send them inappropriate content or any strangers try to contact them. Introducing kids to resources such as ConnectSafely.org can also help them learn more about the potential negative effects of their actions on social media.

Regulating Purchases

Stories of kids who racked up huge bills by sending thousands of text messages in a month or buying lots of power ups for their favorite game regularly pop up in the news. Parents can avoid a drained bank account or huge phone bill by regulating the purchases kids can make. Even though the goods aren’t tangible, parents should treat the purchase of apps, music, and other digital content just like they treat the purchase of toys or clothing. They may set up a digital spending budget, allowing kids to freely make purchases within that budget each month or require that kids ask permission before making any purchases. It all depends on the family’s income and the child’s level of responsibility.

Keeping Technology Visible

Tablets and laptops are small, which means they can be carried around and used in different places. Smartphones are even smaller, making it easy for kids to use them under the table and interact with them in other secret ways. However, to keep kids safe, parents want to make sure technology is visible. Today this involves more than just keeping the family computer in a public location so parents can see what their kids are doing online. Some parents may opt to keep smartphones, tablets, and laptops out of a child’s bedroom and only their use in public spaces in the home. But even when smartphones are used in public spaces, parents can’t always quickly look over and see what kids are doing on the screen. Keeping technology visible involves letting kids know they’re being watched when they enter the digital sphere. This means parents have the ability to review the websites they visit, the text messages they send, and other interactions they have online.

The goal of creating digital rules is to help ensure kids stay safe and make sure parents stay aware of what their kids are doing online. Familoop Safeguard was designed to enforce the digital rules they set and make sure kids stay safe without invading their privacy too much. Best of all, it works with individual families’ rules, so stricter families and more lenient families can both keep their kids safe in the digital world.

What digital rules do you have in your household? Share them in the comments to help other parents figure out what digital rules to set for their kids.

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