Our kids are growing up in a different world. Here are a few things we do (or have done) to keep our kids safe...
- Internet filtering - Curiosity killed the cat and can do great harm to kids as well. We have used different products to filter and monitor our kids internet activities. Monitoring tells us where they are going. Filtering keeps bad stuff away that could hurt them. Currently we are using Family Safety which is a free add-on product that we have loaded on every computer they access. Not only can we restrict sites based on our values--we can also monitor what sites are capturing their attention. And we can change (ease) these restrictions as they get older.
- Computer game time -- on a school day, they get 30 minutes of electronic game time (whether computer, Wii, Xbox, iPod, whatever). On non-school days, they get an hour. This limit forces them (mostly the boys) to find other things to do. They all love reading, and I think that is partially because we haven't allowed their time to be monopolized by staring at a screen.
- Cell Phone privileges - we didn't get cell phones for our teens until they were in 9th grade. Why then? Because that is when it became inconvenient to us that they didn't have one. It was never really a safety issue--in middle school there was always a friend nearby who had a phone they could borrow.
- Cell Phone Limits - this is about helping them stay in the present and not always being pulled away into other conversations. Our cell phones have unlimited text messaging, but we actually pay an additional fee (called "Smart Limits" by AT&T) to limit the number of text messages and the time of day it works for phone calls (other than to us, of course).
- iPod Touch restrictions - our 7th grade son saved his money for a long time until he was able to buy an iPod Touch. The first thing I did was took it, enabled the "restrictions" feature, locked it out from Safari (internet surfing) and YouTube, set a password, and gave it back to him. I don't need my adolescent son walking around with a pocket full of temptation.
- Email monitoring - when they first got email privileges, I restricted their incoming messages to an approved list to protect them from child predators. After awhile, I lifted that restriction but continued to monitor all their incoming and outgoing email. As the teens are getting older and more responsible, I've gone from 1) Monitor everything, to 2) Monitor occasionally, to 3) "You know I can monitor it if I want," to 4) I trust you.
- Facebook monitoring - similar to email, we monitored all of their Facebook activity when they first began using it (around 8th grade). Then it was "as needed."
- TV time -- the biggest blessing to parents has been the invention of the DVR (or TIVO). Our kids don't channel surf. There is no reason. We just keep the DVR stacked with shows that won't hurt their hearts (which, of course, changes as they age). They get a limited time to watch, and when they do they can skip commercials (which saves time AND limits the consumer mentality from taking over). Parents: Think of a DVR as a parenting tool, not a tech gadget.
I haven't even talked about the content of movies or shows, but the bottom line: You are the parent. If you don't protect them from the digital world, who will? At the same time, if you don't prepare them to live in a digital world without your oversight, who will? I am constantly doing the countdown: I know I have 17 months left to prepare Heather to totally stand on her own in the world. So we are constantly reevaluating our limits and lifting them as she is ready. It's fun to go to the kids and say, "You've been doing great, making good choices. I'm going to ease the restriction in this area because I think you can handle it now."
Parenting isn't an exact science, so what would you add or change?