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Parenting Advice, Technology for Kids

Are Angry birds, Moshi, Apps Stores and silver screens seducing our kids away from us? When should parents apply the brakes

Studies done in the UK and US have found that more and more kids with access to smart devices are using it to get education and entertainment, as well as going online.

And that isn’t just the older children we are talking about.

By age 5, 50 percent of kids use the Internet daily. And 60 percent of the best-selling education apps are geared towards preschool children, Children Ministry magazine cited in its Easter edition earlier this year.

This social phenomenon has even generated labels for this generation of children. who are being called the iKids, Generation We, Digital Kids, and last year, a liveblog feature carried on the Technology page of UK based newspaper Guardian.com reported one pollster referring to a group of 2-3 year olds  as iTods, because of their ability to use their parents’ tablets to play cartoon and gaming apps.This group comprises the youngest digital natives who have joined the trending increase in virtual world kids.

Tne UK-based pollster, One Poll who was cited in the Guardian Report, had reportedly surveyed 1000 UK-based parents of 2-6 year olds.

In its findings, the poll claimed that 38% of two year-olds and 61% of three year-olds are playing and learning on tablets, with 4% of two year-olds and 8% of three year-olds actually owning their own device, rising to 19% of four year-olds. 

Hugely popular among the young enthusiasts are game apps Angry Birds, Temple Run, FIFA and Minion Rush. It reported that children’s virtual world Moshi Monsters has 70m registered users, and that its developer was expressing concern that  young users were migrating to tablets.

“. . . Where I see more of our competitors emerging from are definitely in the App Store, everything from Talking Tom to Temple Run to Angry Birds, these extraordinary apps getting tens of millions of downloads. That’s where kids are spending a lot of their time these days,” noted  Michael Alton Smith, CEO of children’s virtual world Moshi Monsters.

Studies done in the UK and US have found that more and more kids with access to smart devices are using it to get education and entertainment, as well as going online.

A fact sheet with highlights of a Pew Internet Research on teens  2013 found these revealing facts:

  • Fully 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online according to a September 2012 survey.
  • As of September 2012 78% of teens have a cell phone and almost half (47%) of those own smartphones.  That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011. (Teens and Technology 2013)
  • Three-quarters (74%) of teens have accessed the internet through a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet.  One-quarter of teens (25%) access the internet mostly on a cell phone. (Teens and Technology 2013)
  • Eight out of ten or 93 % teens have a desktop or laptop computer or access to one.
  • 81% of online teens use some kind of social mediam with Facebook topping the list, and there has been an increase in Twitter use since 2011.

But what is interesting are what the study reveals about how teens have been using the social media sites.

Social media & online privacy (September 2012 data):

The researchers note, “teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they have in the past.”

However the researchers say that teens seem to be more privacy-conscious and responsible about this information than we think they are. The report notes that while over half of teens surveyed have downloaded apps to their cell phone of tablet computer, 51% of teen apps users have avoided certain apps due to privacy concerns. The researchers were satisfied that “they are also taking a variety of technical and non-technical steps to manage the privacy of that information.”

But should parents still be concerned about what their kids are putting over the internet. Read these facts from the Pew fact sheet and judge for yourself:

  • 91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79% in 2006.
  • 71% post their school name, up from 49%.
  • 71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%.
  • 92% post their real name to the profile they use most often.
  • 84% post their interests, such as movies, music, or books they like.
  • 82% post their birth date.
  • 62% post their relationship status.
  • 24% post videos of themselves.

For more on teens, social media and privacy, read this report.

But apparently, the Pew report missed a few kids who aren’t being so responsible, and may be using privacy for the wrong reasons. Here is a Time Magazine article written just this year advising clueless parents like myself of anonymous apps that some kids are using for privacy. According to the report these are secret or ephemereal mobile messaging sites and  apps that allow children the facility to engage in anonymous and what can turn into destructive talk.

Some of these sites named in the article are Ask.fm, Yik Yak, Secret, Backchat, Whisper and Burn Note. On these sites, even your perfectly behaved kids, with some peer pressure, can participate in online bullying and meanness while hiding behind their anonymity.

Exposure to online predators

Then there are the bogey men and online predators that parents have to watch for. In April this year, Kristin Peaks, the Senior Digital & Social Media specialist at Texas-based Cook Children’s Health Care System, a not-for-profit, nationally recognized pediatric health care organization wrote this eye-opening article revealing 7 Dangerous Apps that parents need to know about.

Parents weighing on the discussion raised concerns about predators children could be exposing themselves to through these dangerous apps. Many emphasised the need for parents to balance trust with close supervision, monitoring their children’s use of these devices or resist giving their young children smart phones and such devices when they are not old enough to use them responsibly.

I’ve extracted two of the more reflective comments made by parents on the problems access to smart devices can pose.

“. . . Children and teens are impressionable, they want to fit in, and find people they have things in common with, and the predators out there know this and will lie and manipulate to get what they want. Every day we see more and more kids running away or disappearing either to never be seen again, or to show up years later with horrific stories of what they went through. It is a fear that every parent has ad we want to do what ever we can to keep our children safe. . . ”

– aMom, October 22, 2014

Also, TEXT NOW is a HORRIFIC app…someone somehow stole my daughter’s cousin’s “phone number” they give you to text or call people if you don’t have “phone” capabilities like my child does not on her ipod…They posed as her 11 year old girl cousin (now the ONLY people she had on her text now app were me, my mom and her young cousin). This person posed as an 11 year old girl and then started asking my ten year old daughter to send her naked pictures and that if she loved her she would…luckily my kid is smart enough to tell them no way and her mom would be really mad and brought the ipod and convo to me. Police have been notified but nothing came of it.

– Amanda, September 17, 2014

Dip in reading habits

More time spent on texting, social media and videogames can result in less time in academics and reading for pleasure, as observed by Common Sense Media who in May this year released findings from a round up of studies pointing to a sugnificant decline in children’s reading habits now as compared to a decade ago.

The new report found “a precipitious” drop in reading among teens and children in the US, stating that “achievement among older teens has stagnated, and many children don’t read well or often.”

The proportion of children who are daily readers drops markedly from childhood to the tween and teenage years. One study documents a drop from 48% of 6- to 8-year-olds down to 24% of 15- to 17-year-olds who are daily readers; another shows a drop from 53% of 9-year-olds to 19% of 17-year-olds. According to government studies, since 1984, the percent of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.

Researchers are calling the social phenomenon “a major transition point in the history of reading” in the society, and has attributed it to the technological revolution, which has “blurred the line”.

“From children’s earliest ages, “reading” used to mean sitting down with a book and turning pages as a story unfolded, it stated.

Today it may mean sitting down with a device that offers multimedia experiences and this literacy experts say, blurs the line between books and toys.

At the same time, for older children, much daily communication is now handled in short bursts of written text, such as text messages, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets.

All of this has led to a major disruption in how, what, when, and where children and teens read, and there is much we don’t yet know,” the company stated in its press release announcing the release of “Children, Teens, and Reading,” a research brief that offers a unique, big-picture perspective on children’s reading habits in the United States and how they may have changed during the technological revolution of recent decades.

Some Solutions

Here are some smart ways that parents are approach the issues raised above. Note however that this list does not exhaust the solutions available, and are not totally foolproof for a tech-savvy child or teenager bent on being rebellious.

1. Set rules—based on your teenager’s age, personality and level of maturity—about which apps they can download and which ones they cannot. Kids need guidance, and as the parent you get to make those calls. “My house, my rules” is perfectly OK.

That for some parents may mean not giving kids under 16 a smartphone, or replacing the smartphone with a basic cellular phone.

On September 16, Becky Huss posted: “My 13 year old doesn’t have a smart phone. That alone keeps 99% of the problems under control. She has a tablet that she turns in each night at bedtime. Her app account is linked to our email, so we can see every app she purchases.We also talk to her about the dangers of “cyber strangers” and have tried to let her know the real dangers associated with chatting with people you don’t know. All in all, communication is key. We talk to our daughter daily. The tablet is checked often. Her phone is just a phone. She can text. Guess what, our phone company keeps every text she sends.”

Her solutions are in strict monitoring, which leads me to the next point.

2. Monitor your child’s use of the internet by applying filters and other parental controls. I find Microsoft’s Family Safety keeps me updated on my daughter’s internet activity. But as I’ve found out, it’s not foolproof as it appears my daughter may have found a way to tamper with it. Learn how to set up these filters and parental controls here. You can scout for other available, maybe tighter controls online. There are a multitude of resources for parents, teachers and kids about online safety which have up-to-date guidance, tools and information designed to help families explore the best of the Internet at Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)

There are also a host of cellphone parental applications that parents might want to explore to help them protect their children online activity on smart phones. My search online found Phone Sheriff which topped the top 10 software reviews and claim to provide the tool which will lets you track what your child sends and receives on his or her smartphone in an online interface that is relatively easy to navigate. It is compatible with several smartphone devices, and according to the software owners, “PhoneSheriff’s extensive logging features will make sure that you know about it. You will be able to see all photos, text messages, phone calls, websites, calendar entries and much more. You can even set keyword alerts so that you will know when your child tries to access prohibited content. You can also receive an alert if your child or someone else tries to disable PhoneSheriff.” I cannot endorse the product, having never tried it, but I mention it here to give parents that there is technology out there to empower them to protect their children from themselves and those who would lead them astray.

3. Educating them in the use of social media rather than spying on them is always a better approach, some parents argue as we have to walk a thin line between giving teenagers freedom and supervising this freedom. If you haven’t yet had that discussion about digital footprints and the dangers of the Web, it is time for you to start. For parents who consider themselves technology dimwits, there are plenty of resources on YouTube that can help you understand the phenomena. But become aware so you can keep in step with what your virtual kids are up to.

3. Build trusting relationships with your kids so they will readily confide what they are doing. Lay an early foundation that will enable your children to understand your expectations and share openly with you. Maintain an open door policy at home where your children can ask sensitive questions and share their experiences openly without fear/ However, never assume that your well-behaved children will make full disclosure of their activities to the parents especially when they become teens and face peer pressure. But if you have cultivated a relationship of trust, and are doing the occasional monitoring, you should have less headaches.

4. Talk to your kids about the consequences of cyber-bullying for the perpetrator, the victim and even the families involved, and discourage your children from practicing this nameless meanness against others online. The Times report has more advice for parents on this subject.

5. Apps and social media sites are not all evil. More and more great sites and apps that provide Bible entertainment are becoming available. Show your children these positive alternatives for fun. If you search through my blog, you’ll find a post on Bible apps for kids and my most recent post, Putting the Fun back into Family Worship where I share some of these resources. Come back often and you’ll find similar posts with more tech respurces that you and your children can use for for good healthy entertainment and education.

5. And because we are grooming kids for the Lord, it goes without saying that parents should

Spend time in building children’s faith in God, teaching and modeling right and wrong, and you’ll also grow children with a strong christian identities that can resist evil.

The Good Book did say, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Commit to this day by day while resist (ing) the devil in what you allow in your homes. If you don’t want your children to become iTods, or digital natives or any of these so-called generational labels, you have the power to prevent it from happening. Take control of your homes. Make your homes hallowed places, fit for Jesus and his angels to dwell. Set a right example, and invite the Holy Spirit to complete the work you have started in your children.

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About TaylorWrites Creative

I am a freelance journalist/blogger/copywriter based in Portmore, St Catherine. I blog about writing, education, small business, children ministry, lifestyle, current affairs personal technology and island life. I offer the following Writing Services - website pages - social media posts/ updates - blog posts and articles - tests and quizzes - family and life memoirs - corporate profiles - magazine and newsletter copy - email marketing copy - news reports - sales reports - press releases and press kits - advertising and sales promotions copy Editing and Proofreading I have an eagle eye for errors. I can edit or proofread your books, essays, technical/ business documents, academic documents- teacher and student materials, correspondence, resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Call or Email me today to discuss how I may help you with your writing or editing projects. Tel: 797-5997 Email: polishedproofreaderjm@gmail.com Find me on Facebook @ Polished Proofreading

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