With the fall semester in full swing many parents may notice something different this year. Namely that their kitchen table is now a school room. Books, notes, projects, and computers replace the area where plates once sat. The virtual classroom of today is new for many parents. Our back to school tech tips for parents will help guide you through this new environment. I can’t promise it will make playing geometry tutor any easier, but it will help you and your kids stay safe online.
Back to School Tech Tips for Parents
Limit Screen Time
Prior to the pandemic many families struggled with setting guidelines for healthy screen time. Now that kids are required to use a screen for school the problem will likely be more challenging. It falls to parents to determine how much is too much.
It is important to consider that not all screen time is the same. According to experts, time spent with educational and creative material is much better than time spent passively consuming content or gaming. While unwinding with an hour or so of gaming isn’t harmful, parents should be sure a majority of the screen time is dedicated to learning.
The case can be made that gaming might actually be beneficial to children now confined to the home. Games that allow your child to interact with friends can replace much needed social interaction time. Now that kids aren’t playing at school the online world provides an outlet for kids to have fun with friends. Games such as Minecraft can also enhance a child’s creativity. Games that promote building, reasoning, and using critical thinking skills can be good for a child.
To keep a handle on how much screen time your child is getting parents can use screen monitoring software. However, be sure to have a conversation addressing why the software is being used.
This might not seem like a very good tech tip. However, getting away from tech is sometimes exactly what a young (or older) mind needs. Kids should be encouraged to get outdoors daily, when possible, to hike, run, walk, or just play in the yard.
The opportunity to get outside has been proven to help relieve stress. Not to mention it helps keep kids healthy and burn some excess energy. This last part is extremely important. In school your children likely had a physical education class and maybe recess. These dedicated times allowed your child to get much needed exercise. It’s important to make sure your kids still get in some physical activity.
Home Network Monitoring
Back to the tech stuff. The web is vast and parents need to control what their kids see online. A content filter for your home network is a good step. Depending on the age and model of your internet router you may be able to place content filters from an app. The filters help to block content your kids shouldn’t see, such as adult sites. While you may not think your children actively seek out this content, and you may be correct, some adult sites appear in legitimate searches. I’m sure if you think hard on it you can remember a time when you searched for one thing and got something you neither expected or wanted!
While a home network filter helps when your child is connected to your home WiFi, the protection ends when they use cell data. However, parents have additional options to filter cellular activity. In a previous article I discussed phone monitoring apps for parents and how to discuss the use of such apps with your kids.
My final piece of advice is for parents to explore accountability software. This software monitors your child’s online activity for both a computer and mobile device. Any inappropriate activity is promptly reported to the parent. Most solutions allow parents to set custom filters. This allows each family to decide what is and is not appropriate and when a parent will be notified. If a notification is triggered parents can review the site that was accessed. If the content was incorrectly labeled as inappropriate the parent can white-list, or approve the site, for future use.
With kids now required to spend even more time online accountability software can provide an additional line of defense to keep kids safe online. Some solutions even notify parents if the child spends too much time on a certain site. For example, if your child is spending hours on YouTube you might want to investigate if they are watching educational videos or something less productive.
Talk It Out
I’ve gone on in other posts about the importance of open communication with your children. No one, child or adult, likes to feel they aren’t trusted. Even worse is to feel like you’re being spied upon. Explaining what software or app is being used, why, and setting limits is important. Your kids need the freedom to explore and learn on their own. Now that they are home they are missing out on that exploration with friends and classmates. Each parent needs to determine where to draw the line. Solutions, such as monitoring apps or accountability software, can help the parent enforce hard boundaries. However, software and apps should never replace parent-to-child communication.
Staying safe online is a difficult enough challenge for adults. Even the most well-intentioned child may stumble across dangerous content. As these back to school tech tips have shown software can help an already busy parent keep their children safe online.