Treat Technology Privileges Like a License

8/3/2016 12:10:00 AM

As parents, we all have the same goal—Keep Our Kids Safe.  When they are at home, at school, or with friends, we constantly worry about them until we can see them again and know everything is okay.  We often have to make tough choices, and making sacrifices for our children is a no-brainer. But when it comes to technology, sometimes we stay up in the stands instead of being on the field and in the game.  Parents need to understand that social media is playing an important role in our kids’ lives much earlier than they might expect.  Some children as young as kindergarten may have cell phones, 3rd graders may be posting their own videos with the Musical.ly

At age 16 in many states, your child can obtain a learner’s permit to drive in limited circumstances.  As a parent, you will do everything in your power to put safeguards in place to ensure your child is totally ready for the responsibility that comes with earning a full driver’slicense. You may insist on driving classes, mandate extra hours of car time with you or another adult, and insist your child studies the traffic rules inside and out.  Eventually, your child can earn your trust by proving he or she is ready to take on the responsibility. With a license and car come even more rules: be home by 10:00, no one allowed in the car unless you approve, keep it gassed up, and so many more.  Your child may still get a ticket, miss curfew, or even get in an accident, but there will be further consequences when that time comes. You cannot prevent the actions of other drivers, but you can prepare your child and trust him to follow the rules and hopefully make the right decisions.

We need to take the same approach with technology. Kids can get in trouble or even get hurt by misusing the powerful technology we place in their hands. Parents need to create a Tech License within our homes. Create technology rules for your household and require your child to agree to the terms before allowing the use of technology. Post your house technology rules on the refrigerator so any time your child brings friends to your house, they are expected to follow your rules. Only agree to share your Wifi password if they agree.  You can find some great examples of technology contracts by clicking here.

Here are some other quick suggestions for getting engaged, educated, and involved:

  1.  Attend school meetings about technology. 
  2.  Acquire software to monitor for inappropriate technology use such as sexting, bullying, and profanity. 
  3.  Watch YouTube videos to research the apps your kids are using. 
  4.  Talk to your children! 
  5.  Talk to other parents. Despite what your young child may tell you, their friends do NOT all have cell phones.

Paul Sanfrancesco is Director of Technology for a K-12 school district and an an adjunct professor in the Master of Education program at  Saint Joseph’s University. He specializes in talking to parents and students at schools around the country about the potential dangers of kids’ use of technology and brings his unique perspective as an educator and parent to his presentations. He is based in the Philadelphia area.

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