Is Santa putting an iPad in your kids' stockings this year?
I remember as a child waking up at 5am on Christmas morning and running to the tree to unwrap a brand new Atari. As technology has moved on, so has gaming and this year there will be many children waking up to unwrap the latest iPad, iPhone or other cool tech gifts.
If you are one of the thousands of parents about to step into the world of your child having their own mobile device, then now is the time to start thinking about routines and how you want your family using their devices. By setting clear guidelines early around how you want your kids to use their device, you can ensure a happier, healthier and safer household.
Want to stay ahead of what apps your kids are using? Subscribe to our FREE monthly cyber safety newsletter (see the link, top right on desktop or bottom of article on mobile).
1. Healthy boundaries & routines
As a mum of two young children (7 & 4 years) I have come to learn just how much kids thrive with clear boundaries and structure. This makes it clear what the expectations are and where the line is, although kids will still try and cross that line every now and then. The same goes for devices. I would recommend sitting down with your children and setting guidelines for appropriate iPad use early. I have found that they are never too young for this and love to be involved in the process. Every family will have different rules that suit their needs and the age of the child. This may include things like; hold the iPad gently with two hands, no iPads in bedrooms or at the dinner table, and all homework must be done before use.
2. Electronic curfews
One common rule among families is a device curfew, which will vary depending on the age of the child and what works for your family. There is a multitude of research that demonstrates the need for a break from screen time approximately an hour before bed. Why not use this as an opportunity to read with your child. My kids don’t always appreciate their curfew but they have become accustomed to it very quickly, my 7yo even plans around it now. I’ve also found it’s a great way to get them moving quicker eg. teeth brushing done as they are “wasting their iPad time”. Electronic curfew routines from a young age will assist in your child having quality sleep which helps with behaviour, productivity and learning. Family Zone is a parental control tool that allows parents to set the rules and at the nominated time their iPad stops being able to access the internet. No arguments there!
3. Appropriate apps
Help your child make good app choices. There are so many fun educational apps, that your child won’t even know they’re learning. In addition they develop important skills like hand-eye coordination, early literacy, building relationships and more. The internet is a wonderful resource for them when used safely and I encourage parents to "co-play" or get involved with their child’s use of technology as much as possible. This will keep them connected as a family but also allow you to ensure their app choices are safe and healthy. My kids love nothing more than me helping them build in Minecraft or looking at #ElfontheShelf on Instagram. At the end of the day your kids want to spend time with you more than anything, if you can engage with them on their terms everyone will benefit from it. Sometimes parents can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the different apps that your child wants. Perhaps consider limiting the amount they can download at any one time, to give yourself a chance to be familiar with the latest app. In our house we allow one new app a week, that way I as a parent have a chance to navigate around the app and read its reviews first. However if you don’t have time or the know how, then the Family Zone blog and newsletter are great ways for parents to stay informed, with regular app reviews and articles on all things cyber safety.
4. Moderate device use
Like everything in life, moderation is key. We try and make sure our family routine consists of a range of healthy and sensory activities, encouraging lots of physical, creative and sensory play.
5. Model healthy device use
Remember they are always watching and they pick up more than you think. How you use a device will provide a model for how your child uses it. So put your phone away when at the table or talking to people, especially your little people, AND of course never use your phone while driving.
6. Keeping your child safe
Parental controls are a must to keep kids safe from the dangers online. In my experience working with the Police, if there is an app that is going to be popular with children, that does not have appropriate security and safety mechanisms, then predators are going to go there. Family Zone allows you to put in place parental control settings that will work across all of your kids’ devices, in and out of the home, and restrict what apps they can download and what times of day they can use them.
Added extras not to forget!
Germs – Don’t forget to put in place healthy routines of washing hands before use!
Eye strain - Plan breaks after 20 minutes of use to avoid eye strain
Posture - Build good habits early and consider using a case that positions the device at a comfortable viewing angle
By Jessica Hill, Family Zone
Jess is a mum of two and recently came onboard at Family Zone after working as an Intelligence Analyst for WA Police for 9 years. During that time, she was placed in the cyber area of the Sex Crime Division where she dealt with families and victims of cyber-crime, and her passion for cyber safety developed. “I couldn’t believe the enormity of cases in sexting, grooming and paedophilia that I dealt with on a daily basis. One of the common themes I saw was parents overwhelmed and not knowing what to do. I really wanted to get involved in a prevention role where I could help families protect their children. Family Zone is this and more!”