It’s never too soon to think about how your children use technology

Many of us will have seen the clip showing a one year old girl expertly manipulating an iPad before turning to a glossy, paper-based magazine with tons of pictures only to abandon it rather swiftly when she realises however hard or often she touches the images on the page nothing happens! Duh!!! No music, no sounds of any kind. The pictures never change and don’t do anything. How useless is that?

Ofcom recently reported that one in three children now have a tablet computer – all of which have the potential to connect to the internet. Tablets are becoming the technology of choice for millions of kids in Britain.

Inexpensive tablets and smartphones are the must have gadgets among younger people. This has prompted several considerations for parents.

Apps and what to look out for

These small software programmes for tablets and smartphones are often free to download but a great many require you to buy something before you can do anything that is really useful or interesting.

Sometimes you can only get the free app by registering a credit card and, of course, that will almost always belong to one of the parents.

A number of families have received an enormous shock when a statement comes in at the end of the month and they discover that their child has unwittingly spent perhaps a thousand pounds or more on shiny laser guns, sonic shields or pink glittery ponies. Keep an eye on that.

After an app has been downloaded it is possible to remove the credit card details from a child’s device. It is quite easy to do but not all tablets are the same. Have a look at how to do this for iPads and here for Android devices, and for Windows.

Online reputation

It can be very difficult for parents to support or supervise their children’s use of these devices when they’re out and about.

All mobile phone networks and the larger internet service providers supply filters as standard. These can be a great help keeping out undesirable content, for example hard core pornography which can have a detrimental effect on many young people’s attitudes towards sex and sexuality.

Dealing with children’s online behaviour requires a different approach. Take the issue of sexting. Some youngsters have taken pictures of themselves engaging in sexual acts then sent them to their boyfriend or girlfriend as a token of what they think, at the time,  is their love for each other.

In doing this they may have committed a serious crime that can have disastrous consequences and haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Several youngsters try to hide their activity on a tablet or smartphone by using so-called decoy or anonymity apps. However, in the end they will not prevent a police officer, a “mate” or a clever Head Teacher at school from seeing how the phone or tablet has been used.

Watch out for them on your children’s phones and if you see them, or anything else you are worried about or are not sure of, sit down and talk to your child about your concerns. Get them to explain to you exactly what each app is and show you how it works. It’s a great way to get a conversation going about all of these issues.

Four things you can do now:

  1. Make sure the content filters are turned on and working
  2. Remove your credit card details from your child’s smartphone or tablet to limit in-app purchases
  3. Get your child to explain to you what he or she does with every app they have loaded on to their smartphone or tablet
  4. Learn about decoy apps and watch out for them

Additional reading:

If you’re interested in reading more about online reputation click here.