The modern parent is presented with tools which can make things easier, but they can also make things more complicated than they should be. When things seem to get complicated, it is usually a good idea to try and keep things simple as progress is slowly made through the weeds. In the non-stop orderly chaos that turns days into weeks into months and then years, it is important to keep things in perspective, but also still keep an eye on all the details.
Our kids come first. We go out of our way to make sure that our children are healthy, happy and successful at everything they set their minds to. We are not only responsible for food, clothing, and shelter, but our children also count on us for love, guidance, protection and responsible decision-making that comes from years of life experience. We find that as our kids get older, their desires and so-called "needs" continue to grow and in the magnitude of stress involved.
Great thought and careful consideration are given when providing our children with things that can be dangerous, which is why many children's products have age suggestions on the box. We weigh the risks when it comes to buying that first bicycle or how to safely integrate the youngsters into helping in the kitchen or with heavy chores. As the children get older, they gradually gain approval to use various tools or engage in sports, and they are supervised and guided in the importance of safety. Then, we give them the keys to a hard-earned automobile.
There is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, it seems that everything is changing so rapidly these days that we fail to recognize new dangers that exist. On the other, technology has seemed to develop relatively slow during our personal lifetimes that we have tricked ourselves into a false sense of security based on the way things used to be.
For instance, we all grew up with phones in some form. The history of the telephone goes back to the late 19th century, making the idea of talking to someone somewhere else new to human history but not new to any living generation's recent history. There is nothing unsafe about the idea of having a telephone. In fact, quite the opposite is true since the phone is essential for connecting to and receiving help from the outside world.
First, there was photography, then motion pictures. The phonograph was born then radio, followed eventually by television. We have all played video games. All of these technologies have a relatively recent history with decades of societal experience that tends to show that we know our manners when it comes to using these things responsibly. All of this stuff seem manageable and mostly harmless. It seems as though humanity has reached the pinnacle of technological achievement.
Mix these things together with wireless Internet, and we now have the world at our fingertips. This is great, just like any other technology. But with the same train of thought, it is important to understand the seriousness of risks known and unknown when it comes to providing our children with smartphones.
The same techniques of evaluation and guidance when it comes to providing our children with known huge milestones apply to providing our children with their smartphone or tablet. Among the obvious privacy and security concerns that go along with Internet access, there are more things to look out for than might initially meet the eye when you are only giving your child a phone to make calls and maybe get together on social media.
While we all grew up with televisions, telephones and even access to the Internet, the technology itself is relatively new. What is astoundingly new, however, is the development to include all of these things into a mobile handheld device. As natural creatures, we spend lots of time staring into wonderful lighting. The long-term effects of this are widely unknown, but studies have shown that too much screen time can lead to the lack of sleep which can lead to depression or compound any immune stresses and get in the way of healing and physical development. There are also unknown psychological and sociological impacts that could hinder emotional development. The data is not in yet, but even the health of eyes themselves can come into question as we focus on a 2-dimensional surface to perceive what would otherwise be a 3-dimensional focus point in real space.
Too much screen-time at a young age can easily develop into a psychological dependence that's hard to break away from. The scourge of dependency has plagued humanity for centuries, but addictions that have risen from the introduction of the Internet are not as prominently recognized as having the same severity when it comes to being able to manage one's life without their vice. Online addiction leads to extreme fits of irritability and the inability to cope with life without constant connection and feedback from the World Wide Web. Interactions online can be addicting, and obsessions with popularity or always receiving attention get in the way of developing healthy and productive relationships.
There are apps available on smartphones that are not safe for various reasons. Some apps will use the device's location to connect with other users of the app nearby or to promote their advertisers that might be in the vicinity. With a few finger taps and swipe, teens can use smartphones to download inappropriate apps designed for adults and engage with other users of the app.
Over-sharing and Cyberbullying
Once something is shared on the Internet, it usually stays on the Internet. In the past, casual conversations or shared moments did not stick around with the clarity that they do today. It used to be difficult to make a social blunder or embarrass oneself in front of everyone they have ever known or loved at the same time. These days we can do all of that, and our entire audience can capture and store those memories for later or share with people we have never met. Tragically, bullies have used the Internet to shame people globally. Cyber bullies will even use those power blackmail others to give them what they want. While the name suggests that it is some new form of childish taunting, cyberbullying and over-sharing have taken it to a whole new level.
How do you look out for danger?
As with anything, parents must decide when their children will be able to handle certain responsibilities responsibly. Parents must supervise their children and look at past life experiences to offer the proper guidance for their children to be safe. Adult supervision is required around the fire, when using tools and when engaging in all forms of recreation. The same should apply when providing our children with portable handheld computers that are connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.
The first thing to do is to recognize where the dangers exist. This article outlines a few online dangers, but there are other dangers to look out for such as texting while driving or taking selfies in dangerous locations. But since smartphones and tablets are small personal portals to the world, it's hard for parents to see what their children are doing, making it even more difficult for parents to look out for their children on these devices. The best method to see what is going on with these devices is to use a service that will keep parents up to date with the device's activities.
What is the process to get started?
Mobile monitoring software is essential for parents who want to look out for their children online and with the smartphones and tablets they have provided. Parents can purchase a subscription to a mobile monitoring service and then install an app on the devices they provide their children. The monitoring app would remain on the device and sync activity logs to the online parental panel so that parents can keep an eye on how each of their children uses those devices and then addresses any concerns that might arise. Among the features for parents to monitor include:
- Calls made
- Text messages sent and received
- Websites visited
- Applications installed
- Photos captured or received
- GPS locations
and various social media logs if available
Proper monitoring software for smartphones and tablets will be password protected so that the children will not be able to bypass settings or uninstall the software. It is always a good idea to talk with your kids ahead of time to let them know that you will be supervising to make sure they don't go too far off track or get into any trouble while using the powerful device you have provided. Children understand that they can't play with knives or fire unsupervised, and something like a smartphone should be handled responsibly if the child expects to use the device at all.
We all want what is best for our children so that they have the tools they need to succeed. By keeping an eye on what is going on, we can make sure that we are being safe and responsible while experiencing the technological advancements that make this generation's lifetime so exciting. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the Internet or the improvements it has brought to society. As parents, we must learn to embrace the technology and learn how to use it responsibly so that we can, in turn, provide our children with proper guidance when the time comes to give them an Internet-enabled smartphone or tablet of their own.