No parent wants to hear that their child is being bullied. Today parents have to worry about more than a schoolyard bully as technology has brought about cyberbullying. If you’ve been asking yourself “what is cyberbullying?” you aren’t alone. Many parents have this question. Today we will take a look at how this threat occurs, some special concerns, and how to spot if your child may be a victim.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying where the bully uses devices such as smartphones and computers to attack their victim. The channels of attack are numerous, making this a difficult form of bullying to prevent. Bullies can use texts, apps, social media, chat forums, and even gaming sites. Any platform where content can be shared presents a risk of cyberbullying. While bullying from when I was a child involved shouts and fists, today a bully can use words and images to hurt others. We’ve all heard that sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true today as words can, and do, hurt.

Cyberbullying can involve sharing personal information about a victim, spreading false rumors, and causing a person to feel embarrassed or threatened. While it starts online some unfortunate cases have real world consequences.

Common places where cyberbullying takes place include:

  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.)
  • SMS and text messaging apps
  • Email
  • Gaming sites (Twitch, Mixer)
  • Online forums (Reddit)

The above is certainly not an exhaustive list, but is a good place to start for parents trying to speak with their kids about cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying Special Concerns

No form of bullying is good. Cyberbullying comes with a few special concerns since this form of bullying is carried out via internet connected devices which dominate our lives. Using technology platforms such as social media creates a permanent digital record of our activities, likes/dislikes, friends, family, and behavior. This online record is easily accessible for others. The permanent nature of this record means that cyberbullies may be able to harm a victim today, but the consequences and pain can last for years.

A few concerns unique to cyberbullying include:

  1. Victims may have difficulty finding relief from bullies as we live in an always on and always connected society
  2. The permanence of digital content means victims could feel the impact years down the road when applying to college and jobs
  3. Victims may suffer in silence as parents and teachers may not see the damage being inflicted

The scariest part as a parent is the fact that I may not ever know bullying is taking place until it’s too late. Teachers seem to agree according to a January 2019 Google report that shows cyberbullying is the top online issue for kids in the classroom.

Parents must be on the lookout for warning signs to protect our kids from bullies and to prevent them from bullying others.

Warning Signs

Parents should watch for the following warning signs. Some help to identify if your child may be a victim. Other warnings might reveal that your child is bullying others.

Signs Your Child is a Victim

  • Increase in requests to avoid school and stay home
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Appears depressed
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Stops using their device (phone, gaming console, computer, etc.)
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Becomes overly secretive

Signs Your Child May Be Bullying Others

  • Exhibits an increased concern with popularity
  • Becomes unreasonably frustrated if they are denied access to their device
  • Uses more than one online account for no valid reason
  • Becomes withdrawn from family and friends
  • Increased behavioral issues at school
  • Won’t discuss what they are doing online
  • Becomes secretive with their device (e.g. hides the screen when you walk by)

Parents know their children best and should use discretion when broaching the subject of bullying. Children may not be comfortable admitting they are having trouble with another child. On the other hand no one likes being accused of bullying either. If you happen to notice the above behaviors then investigate further. Some parents may want to discuss the situation directly. Others may be more comfortable using a device monitoring app to gather information before confronting their child.

Regardless of the approach that you take it’s important to let your child know that if they are having trouble you are always available.

Every parent wants what is best for their children. In today’s digital world we must consider and defend against physical as well as cyber threats. Practicing proper online hygiene, like not sharing sensitive information, is a good start. We must also be diligent to know the warning signs of cyberbullying so that problems can be stopped before they get out of hand.

Keeping our kids safe is one of the most important jobs we have as parents. Traditionally we though of safety in the physical sense. Living in a safe neighborhood, wearing a seatbelt, and similar ideas constituted safety. Today we must also consider how to protect our children in the digital world. In this guide I’ll go over some tips parents can use with their children to explain how to stay safe online. This won’t require expert knowledge or a bunch of expensive software. Just some good advice on how to keep everyone online and happy. This will be a relief those folks who may be in the odd position of having kids who know more than the parents about technology.

How To Stay Safe Online

Start With The Talk

Thankfully this isn’t that difficult talk. This talk is all about staying safe online. Parents should approach this conversation with the goal of educating their kids on the dangers of being online without creating a “boogeyman” out of tech. What I mean is that the risks of being online should be clearly explained without sugarcoating. Risks are real and should be taken seriously. However, we don’t want kids so scared of going online that they never hit the web.

Let your children know that they can bring problems and questions to you at any time. This can be tough as kids might fear consequences if they accidently land on the wrong site or click a bad link. While bad behavior deserves some action, it is also tough to penalize someone who just didn’t know better. Use each conversation as a learning opportunity. Explain why, for example, a link shouldn’t have been clicked.

Of course we all know that anything parents say is boring. We’re all smarter than our parents when we are kids, right? If your kid needs some outside guidance Google provides a free resource to teach kids how to act online and how to identify threats. Be Internet Awesome provides lessons on security, spotting fake people and news, and how to be a good online citizen. The fun and interactive learning will help reinforce the knowledge you’ve already shared with your child.

Keep Clear Line Of Sight On The Computer

I’ve yet to come across a compelling reason why young children need a computer or laptop in the bedroom. By keeping computer usage in common areas, such as the kitchen table, lets you keep an eye on what your kids are up to. Parents don’t need to constantly stare at the screen. Your child should have the opportunity to earn your trust. Passing by and casting a glance at the screen every now and again ensures your child knows you are attentive, but not micromanaging.

Using technology in the home has many benefits, but isn’t a pass for an “anything goes” mindset. Children should be afforded the privilege of internet access once it’s earned. As a condition to this privilege the computers staying in a common area is a fair requirement.

Know Attacker Tactics

To defeat an enemy we must first understand their motives and behaviors. While I don’t expect that many kids are countering cyber attacks, they can learn how and why attackers behave in certain manners.

Kids on social media are exposed to potential unsolicited advances from attackers. The attacker could be seeking information, such as a parent’s credit card number, or have much worse intentions in mind. Educating your kids on some of the common tactics can help them spot and avoid trouble.

Let’s say your child uses an online chat for school projects. Nothing wrong here as they may be chatting with friends or teachers. However, if a new student enters the room and wants to start a private chat, your child should be on alert. Similar requests to text, talk on the phone, or start a video chat should also be considered suspicious.

Attackers may also ask odd questions of children. “Where is the computer in your home” is a question designed to assess if the child is in an isolated or public area. See the prior rule on keeping computers in your line of sight. Other tactics might include overly flattering statements designed to gain a child’s trust.

This is where we must walk a thin line as parents. We don’t want children growing up thinking that anyone who says something nice is after them. On the same token we also don’t want our kids overly trusting of online strangers. Reminding children that people can lie about their true identity online can help focus their attention to online threats. If their friend at school says something nice they shouldn’t run away in fear.

Be Stingy With Personal Information

Would you share your Social Security Number (SSN) with me if I asked really, really nice? Probably not.

That’s simple because you don’t know me and have no idea why I would even need your SSN. That is the proper mindset to have with such sensitive details.

Unfortunately, lots of legitimate institutions ask for just this type of information. Schools, doctor’s offices, clubs, and many more will ask for your child’s information. When your child is old enough to land that first summer job they will likely need to provide their SSN once they are hired.

The problem with the above is that these organizations need the SSN for a legitimate purpose, but aren’t equipped to keep is secure. Think about your local pizza joint. If your kid works there during high school that would be great! Do you think, however, that old man Aldo (from where I worked as a kid) really keeps the employment records secure? I know my application and details were kept in a folder in a cabinet that had a broken lock.

As parents we must guard this information to the best of our ability. Ask if an SSN is really required. If so, what steps with the organization take to keep it safe? It doesn’t hurt to ask and is actually our duty. I’ve had some offices tell me I’m being difficult when I do this. My response is “I’m good with that”. I will be difficult because it’s my job to protect my children’s information while they are young. If I can’t be assured their SSN won’t be visible to others then I can’t hand it over in good faith.

Parenting note: be sure you and your spouse align on this topic. Nothing is more awkward than getting into a debate on personally identifiable information in front of a soccer coach.

Freeze Credit Reports

When talking about how to stay safe online the conversation inevitably covers credit reports and checking for unauthorized accounts.

What does a credit report have to do with kids? I’m glad you asked!

Identity theft can happen to anyone of any age. This includes your new bundle of joy who has no idea what a credit card is or why they need one. Basically, if you have a Social Security Number you can become a victim. Attackers like using kid’s SSN’s for credit cards because:

  1. A child has no prior credit history
  2. The theft won’t be noticed for many years

Parents can proactively take steps to freeze their child’s credit to prevent identity theft. I won’t lie and say that the process is easy. You must prove your identity, your child’s identity, proof of the relationship, and then send these documents to all the credit reporting agencies. Don’t be surprised if some fees are also required.

Yes, this process requires a bit more effort than others described in this article. However, the benefits far outweigh the hassle.

Create a Data Checklist

As a society we are sharing more data, and personal data, than ever before. Social media encourages us to share everything that happens in life. Just got your first driver’s license? Why not share that on Facebook!

You can see that this presents many issues. Kids should have clear guidance on what is and is not acceptable to share. A checklist can remove any guess work for your children. Items to include might be:

  • Credit card details
  • Driver’s license
  • Date of birth
  • Current residence and address
  • Medical details
  • Vacation plans

This will be tough for kids and even for some parents. We must remind our children and ourselves that once information is posted online it lives forever. To stay safe we have to think before we post. Encourage your children to ask themselves questions such as “how could a bad actor use this information maliciously?” and “can I share less and still get my point across?” before hitting the post button.

In closing out this note I realize I’ve likely missed a ton of other methods we can use to educate our children about how to stay safe online. As parents we are always on edge trying to protect our kids. In real life kids might incur some minor injury like a bruised knee, and the same is true in the digital world. What we want to avoid are the serious injuries like a broken arm or giving out a home address. Continuous education is one of the best solutions to keep your kids safe online.

Never before have the people of the world been more connected. Technology allows us to call, video chat, message, and connect with people whenever and wherever we like. I’d be hard pressed to say this is overly negative. Families can share photos and experiences in real time for relatives to view and enjoy. Just thinking of the number of videos and photos shared with grandparents is overwhelming. While we can list many positives it’s also appropriate to avoid a completely pollyanna view. Technology affects family communication in a variety of ways.

Here I’ll take a brief look at how technology impacts how we communicate and where issues may arise. By understanding where things may go wrong we can avoid the situation or seek a fix if we find ourselves already headed down the wrong path.

How Technology Affects Family Communication


Let’s start with a family favorite: TV.

As a child TV ruled the house. It was on during dinner and was a frequent babysitter. While I’m not anti-TV, we all need time to relax, I am against excessive TV. The problem with excessive viewing is that it prevents families from communicating. It’s all too easy to put on your favorite show and binge for hours. Netflix and others make it so easy by auto-playing the next episode.

When it comes to TV my suggestion is to limit time in front of the screen and also filter the content. Encourage your kids to watch educational content and then only one episode at a time. At the end of the episode you can then discuss the program. This is an opportunity to bond and build critical thinking and communication skills.

I’m also a fan of using TV as a means to learn a foreign language. Put on a fun cartoon in a foreign language and your kids will have fun and be learning. That’s a win-win!

Internet and Social Media

The internet and social media have been amazing for communication. Like I mentioned at the start these technologies afford families and friends the opportunity to stay in touch around the world. However, excessive use can lead to a break down of in-person communication skills. Using social media in isolation can also expose a child to increased risk of cyber bullying and other online threats.

I’m a supporter of setting technology rules in the household. A defined set of rules can help keep everyone honest and control the amount of time spent online. While I understand coordinating schedules can be tricky I also encourage parents to schedule online play dates with friends. While the pandemic has forced many of us to remain at home we can still allow our kids some fun time with friends. Video conferencing software can also be used for children to see their friends. It won’t replace the in-person experience, but it is a helpful step to ensure your kids still have some form of social interaction with others their own age.

Sharing Personal Information

A final area that has been altered due to technology is the sharing of personal information. As a child I was told to never give a stranger my address or other details. Now we check-in all over town and carry tracking devices in our pockets. I don’t advocate giving up technology. That would put you and your children at a disadvantage in this tech-first world. However, I do believe parents have a responsibility to teach their kids about how to stay safe online.

Communicating clearly how and why your children should stay safe online is important. More often than not this will actually involve telling your children to communicate and share less, not more, information.

While some kids, especially teenagers, may push back sharing less does have some benefits. The primary benefit I’ve found is that in-person conversations are more interesting. If I see a friend’s posts all week long and know ever detail of his family’s life, then when we see each other on the weekend we have less to talk about. What works for me is keeping my photos and videos on my phone and using them as I tell a story in person. This might not work for everyone, but it’s one way I make technology work for me and not the other way around.

It’s no secret that technology affects family communication. Sometimes it’s for the good, like sharing family photos, and other time it isn’t so good. The key is moderation and keep the entire family accountable. It’s not only kids that spend too much time online. Parents must also prevent technology from getting in the way of parenting. By understanding how various devices impact our communication we can identify areas for improvement and make the necessary changes. Remember, it isn’t about perfection. It is about improving where we can.

Here at Nerdy Dads we talk a lot about technology and kids. Many articles focus on how to introduce children to technology and ensure they practice safe online behaviors. It’s also important for us to speak directly to fellow dads. Just like we want our kids to be responsible with tech, so they also want us to follow our own advice. Parenting in the digital age can be tough. To help us all stay on track I’ve put together a quick guide on how to prevent technology from getting In the way of parenting.

Why It’s Important To Take Control of Your Tech Usage

Kids, especially young children, learn by looking at the world around them. Yes, we can tell them all sorts of facts and ensure they know about safe tech usage. However, children will imitate those they see as authority figures (e.g. parents). If we set bad examples our children will follow our lead. This is dangerous as technology addiction is a real thing. Any addiction has negative consequences and tech is no different. From reduced empathy to increased bullying and a lack of emotional skills tech addiction cannot be written off as less than other bad habits, such as substance abuse.

Many parents take steps to keep their kids safe and healthy. From setting screen time limits to using parental controls for apps and games many parents attempt to set and enforce meaningful technology rules for the household.

The issues arise when our actions and words don’t match. We tell our kids not to stare at a Twitter feed for hours. Then they ask us a question later in the day only to find us absorbed in our favorite sub-Reddit or answering work emails. Being resourceful the child might turn to an always-on source of information: the internet.

Kids feel neglected, parents miss out on parenting opportunities, and we are all the worse off.

How Technology Hooks Us

No parent I’ve encountered set out to consciously place a device above their children. Almost everyone I know would say their children are their top priority. Again, however I come back to my favorite saying:

Actions speak louder than words

Technology has a few holds on us. Understanding our own particular area of weakness is the only way to improve. Some of my areas for improvement are as follows.


That email notification goes off and it’s a knee-jerk reaction that I must check my phone. It’s a struggle to find that right work-life balance when it seems like everyone else is always online. I won’t claim this is easy to remedy and it takes some part self-control and discipline and a supportive work environment.

An Escape Method

Life gets stressful. This shouldn’t be news to any reader here. However, we can’t use technology as an escape pod. It’s nice to stay connected to the outside world since life changes drastically once you’re a parent. We must remember that parenting is it’s own adventure. Sure your childless friends seem to be having a great time on Instagram, but let’s not spend hours looking through their photos and focus on making our own memories.

Let’s also remember that Big Tech and social media want our attention. That is how they monetize the services they offer. We must be extra careful not to fall into their trap of keeping our attention for hours on end. Setting a timer to pull you out of scrolling is one method I’ve used before. The buzzer goes off and the phone goes back in the pocket.

Prevent Technology From Getting In The Way Of Parenting

One of the worst outcomes of tech addiction is that we mistakenly send the message to our kids that we are disconnected. This may result in children acting out to seek our attention. Parents snap back at the bad behavior and viscous cycle ensues. We also lose out on amazing conversation opportunities. When the phone is out conversation halts. We’ve all seen those people in restaurants where everyone has their phone out and the only spoken word is to the waiter.

To prevent technology from getting in the way of parenting we need to set and enforce some rules for ourselves.

So here is the Nerdy Dads tech rules for other dads.

Set Boundaries

I get that many of us are working from home and not all of us have an extra room for an office. So set boundaries on when you can use tech and when you can’t. A great start would be committing to not using any technology at the table. When it’s time to eat phones are put on silent and the TV is turned off. Use the time to reconnect and ask about everyone’s day.

Question Yourself

To change any bad habit, technology related or otherwise, we have to ask the tough questions. It won’t be fun, but it is necessary if we want meaningful change. Reflect on how often you check your phone. If the behavior is excessive then you now know where you can improve. Maybe you spend all your family time recording your kids then adding filters for Instagram. It’s nice to share your kid’s adventures, but remember to put down the phone and be a part of the adventure.

Track Yourself

We’ve written before about using parenting apps to track your kids location and online behavior. I’d also recommend using a parent tracking app. Various apps exist that will track your time and show where you spend too much time. This gives you actionable data on where you can improve. Install an app for you and your spouse then see where you can both get better. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to start work on a good habit.

Know What Causes You Stress

You’ve heard of stress eating, right? We get stressed and that ice cream/donuts/buffet provide us comfort. Devices can be a similar activity we turn to when stressed. However, tech might actually make us more stressed. Think about what happens when you read an inflammatory article or receive a bad work email. You’re in a bad mood and that impacts the entire family. Identify what causes you stress and how to better manage your reaction. Maybe rather than turning to your phone to relax you go for a walk or play with your kids for a few minutes.

Get Your Kids Involved

Becoming a parent doesn’t mean everything you enjoyed must stop. Rather, it’s an opportunity to share your passions with your kids. Love gaming? Me too! That’s why I invite my kids to play with me on age appropriate games. Include your kids in gaming or any of your hobbies and you both then having something bond over and enjoy.

I work in technology and I love it. Ever since I saw my first computer I’ve never wanted to do anything else for work. The one thing I love more though is my family. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of endless scrolling and checking work emails at dinner. Still human after all. However, I still set boundaries and rely on my family to keep me in check if I start to stray. It’s important that I prevent technology from getting in the way of parenting since I am one of only two parents my kids will ever have. We can all do better and we should. Life is too short to spend hunched over a tiny screen.

One of the joys of having kids is seeing them learn something new. A young mind gaining new knowledge because of something you taught them is a wonderful experience. It’s also great that as parents we can introduce our kids to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. Below I describe a few technology projects for kids that are educational and fun.

Technology Projects for Kids

Fruit Stand Circuits

Starting off we have Fruit Stand Circuits designed to teach kids about circuitry.

Kids will get to work on various projects, such as the lemon project and fruit clock. With the lemon project kids will connect a series of nodes and clips to get an LED light to illuminate. This helps kids learn about electrons and electricity in a hands-on, and safe, manner. With the fruit clock you simply put the clock in any fruit you like and watch it run.

Not only is this a fun at-home project that doesn’t require too many tools, it might also make kids enjoy fruit! That’s a double win for many parents.

QR Codes

Depending on where you live in the world QR codes may or may not be a big thing. I tend to see these used more in Asia, though due to COVID and the preference for contactless payments I’m seeing more here in the USA. Regardless, QR codes are a fun way to introduce your child to the power of these scannable codes. With many use cases ranging from sharing information, to contact details, and making payment the QR code has many uses. The best part is the education is free!

The first part of your education plan is learning about this history of QR codes. I suggest the history provided on QRcode.com. The guide isn’t too long or overly complex, though younger readers may require some assistance. Once your children have some background on QR codes they can learn to make their own. QR Stuff provides free resources to create your own codes with multiple data types.

Some fun projects could be creating and printing codes to send a secret messages to family members. My wife did this one year for my birthday. She printed messages on various QR codes and left them around the house. It was a tech-themed scavenger hunt for me to find all the codes. Fun and nerdy!

Create a Movie

Think you have to be George Lucas to make an awesome movie? Think again. With those convenient little computers in our pockets (phones) we can shoot videos anywhere we go. Find an activity that your children enjoy and turn it into a movie. It could be them playing a game or hosting a reality show with stuffed animals. It can be anything you and your kids find fun. Shoot on your smartphone and use any number of editing apps to create your own masterpiece.

Some editing apps to consider include:

Your kids will gain confidence and have a blast with this project. They will also learn about video editing and how to include sound. While they likely won’t create the next Star Wars at such a young age, they will gain an appreciation for what they see on the big screen.

Build a Website

Building a website provides freedom and a chance to explore the limitless possibilities of building on the web. Children can start a blog, create an informative website, or even sell services such as local lawn service, for example. The process of thinking through site design and actually building will encourage critical thinking and a careful contemplation of how decisions impact the end user.

Being told how something works is one thing. Actually pulling back the curtain and doing something yourself is completely different. This is where the true learning will occur. Websites and apps power our daily lives so it’s important for children to know how they work. Build a site also provides an opportunity for you, the parent, to teach and reinforce cyber security best practices. It’s also an opportunity to encourage your kids to explore a career in technology.

This project is for older children and teenagers. Youngsters can still have fun, but they will need some parental assistance.

Develop New Skills

Technology in general, and games in particular, have made teaching and learning more exciting. From teaching your kids how to type to learning financial basics, technology projects can help kids learn about the real world.

Identify some skills that you’d like your child to develop or that they have expressed an interest in developing. Find a resource that can help with that skill and get to work! Lessons can then be reinforced in real life. For example, children playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch will pick up some financial basics. Next time you’re at the grocery store include your child in the shopping. Compare unit prices, hunt for bargains, and teach them the real world value of a dollar. When you compare this to something the child knows, the game experience, it’s easier to relate and understand.

Go Globetrotting

This activity mixes some history, geography, and culture and is extremely fun! We might not be able to jump on planes right now to take vacations. That doesn’t mean your kids can’t experience other parts of the world.

Start by picking a location in the world that is interesting. Anywhere you like! Parents and teachers can try Google Expeditions for access to 800+ adventures in AR/VR. Something as simple as Google Maps can also be used to explore the world.

With technology your kids can travel without ever leaving the comfort of the couch. You can then bring those virtual adventures into the home by working on art projects that reflect the local art or making an authentic meal. It’s a great way to take a lesson and expand it into an action packed day that your kid will remember and learn from.

Numerous technology projects for kids exist that will help to teach fundamentals of electricity, motion, develop new skills, and explore the world. With a little creativity you can use tech to your own advantage and learn about whatever interests you. It’s also a blast to take learning offline and bring what you’ve learned to life. If you child just strolled through a park with dinosaurs via an AR app, for example, it might be time to consider a visit to the local museum if they have a dino exhibit.

Reach out to us in the comments section if you have other existing technology projects that your kids enjoy.

Children’s use of technology can be a dividing subject. Some parents prefer to use technology at home as much as possible. Others feel tech usage should have limits. While the extent to which technology should be used is debatable, it’s important to understand how technology benefits children.

Only by understanding how tech can help our kids learn and the pros and cons to various approaches can we make an educated decision for our families.

Technology is like many things in life and requires moderation. I’ll say that tech is good and beneficial to my children’s education. Having access to the internet has certainly allowed them to learn more than I could ever teach them. However, I also realize that tech usage can get out of control fast. Gaming until 2 am, texting non-stop, and endless scrolling through social media are all bad habits I’ve had to teach my kids about.

The analogy I use is sleep. We all need sleep and sleep is good. Sleeping all day and missing school, work, and obligations is obviously bad. Moderation is key.

Some parents on the other side, who feel that tech distracts from education and social development, might claim that we wouldn’t be in this position if tech wasn’t ubiquitous.

While I can see their position, my counter is that technology isn’t something that should be hidden from children. We live in a tech-focused world and a child that grows up without a basic understanding of how things work will be at a severe disadvantage.

So now we must find a middle ground. We don’t want our kids gaming all night, but we also don’t want to take away the computers and other gadgets. To help find a middle ground let’s explore some of the good that technology provides.

How Technology Benefits Children

Kids Develop Creativity

A kid’s mind is an amazing place. Here’s a quick experiment. Ask your child to come up with a crazy idea. Something silly that would be fun to them. Heck, your kids might provide silly ideas without any motivation. The point is that kids have the ability to imagine up anything. This is partly because they don’t know what isn’t possible yet. Flying PB&J sandwich with lasers that delivers candy? Why not.

Back in the day I used crayons and paper to draw out my fantasies. Maybe we had watercolors in art class at school. Today’s kids have access to free and easy-to-use tech that teaches them how to code via games and even turns ordinary drawings into a playable game.

By experiencing the thrill of taking an idea, giving it shape, and then seeing it come to life kids have the ability to explore and expand their creativity. This helps with confidence building and instills in the child a sense of pride when coming up with a new idea. It also helps build resiliency. If you have ever developed a website or app you know nothing works 100% all the time. You have to build, test, fix, and re-build. The only thing you can’t do is give up.

Develop Social Skills

This will lose a few readers. Tech helping social skills? That might seem counterintuitive, but give me a chance to explain.

Looking back when I was a kid baseball card collecting was a big thing. It was easy to find fellow collectors, trade cards, and have very interesting debates on who the best player was at that given moment.

Technology also helps foster a community. Your kids can easily find fellow Minecraft enthusiasts, for example. By joining a community they can interact with others and learn. They also get the joy that comes with helping someone else who shares your hobby. Teaching a new player can be a great way to develop social skills and gain confidence.

Another great way to develop social skills with technology is through coding camps. I went to summer camps as a kid. Spending a week away from home, learning with others, and being free was a great experience. I love that my kids could do something similar, but instead of canoeing they were coding. They learn how to work in teams and resolve conflicts without mom and dad always stepping in to make a decision.

Tech Builds Problem Solving Skills

Life throws many challenges at us, some of which we aren’t prepared to handle. Technology in general, and playing video games in particular, can help build strong problem solving skills.

Think about a video game that has quests or “survival mode” play where a player must outlast all the others to win the game. To win you have to think fast and operate under conditions with imperfect information. You don’t know what items the game will provide, what your opponent has in their inventory, or what the opponent’s strategy will be. You simply must make a plan and revise as new facts are presented.

That sounds a lot like adult life.

Technology allows for freedom of expression. Part of that means your kids can build anything they can dream up. When you build things you will inevitably have errors. This could be trying to build a character up to a higher level or build a new game from scratch. Either way, a child will need to learn patience and problem solving skills to achieve their goal.

Preparation For The Future

Unless something very odd happens technology will continue to play an important role in our daily lives. Early exposure to technology will better prepare children for careers in high-tech environments. High-tech also goes well with high-paying. Even traditionally non-tech companies are getting into tech, such as Home Depot adding 1,000 tech jobs a few years back.

Tech jobs are here to stay. With the rapid pace at which new technologies are released many of the things we use today will be obsolete in a few years. The children who develop skills at an early age, especially the ability to quickly pick up new technology, will stand to benefit the most in the future.

Improved Education

I can’t end a conversation on how technology benefits children without discussing education. It’s no secret that many kids are using virtual classrooms and distant education this year. While these methods of learning certainly have some issues, without computers kids might have missed out on an entire semester or year of school.

Technology also presents new ways of learning. Think back to your school days. You likely had books and binders to store all your notes. Today kids have computers. While excellent at reducing what you need to carry in a backpack, computers also provide a window to the world. Kids can quickly find information and learn about new topics.

Computers are cool, but how amazing do you think it will be when VR is incorporated into the classroom? That lesson on the rain forests will be much more memorable when your kids can “walk” through the jungle as opposed to just looking at pictures, videos, or reading about it.

It’s common for parents to question how technology benefits children. We all naturally want what is best for our kids. With the prevalence of tech we have to determine what is acceptable and where to draw the line. I’ve always felt that tech is like any other tool. It should work for us, the end user, and not the other way around. I’m proud of the skills my kids have picked up by being exposed to technology. It’s rewarding to see a young mind grow and without access to technology I know my kids would have different skills than they do today.

Time for some truth, folks. Being a parent is tough and that is doubly true now that everyone is working and schooling from home. Setting meaningful technology rules the entire family can agree to may seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, it’s possible to set rules everyone can follow.

If you feel like technology is taking over your family life keep reading as I discuss why technology rules are important. I’ll then dive into a few rules we’ve set around the house and why they are important.

Why Are Technology Rules Important?

Before we decide to make rules let’s discuss why we even need them. As parents we can fall into the trap of saying one thing and doing another. Kids go by what they see and the actions we take say more than any words we use. It might be frustrating, but kids will absolutely do as we do and not as we say. That’s really isn’t so bad as we can adjust our own behavior and discover we might have some bad habits lurking.

An issue I dealt with was phone time. I love Twitter. Give me the opportunity and I can and will scroll half the day away. When my kids see this they naturally think it’s acceptable. Not only is this a terrible waste of time, but it’s also not healthy. If I want my kids to practice healthy screen time habits I need to set a good example. I adjusted my behavior so I have less Twitter time and my kids have picked up that my actions now reflect my words.

Meaningful Technology Rules For Your Entire Family

Privilege != Right

Yes, technology is essential to many of today’s activities. I wouldn’t advise removing all tech in the house so that your kids can’t attend classes. However, outside of essentials, such as school and work, technology is a privilege. Tablets, gaming systems, TVs and such are not essential to life and are a right. It’s important to teach kids the difference.

An approach I like is likening technology use to going to a carnival or a friend’s house. The expectation should be that it won’t happen. If behavior, grades, and obligations exceed the parent’s expectations then the child has earned the reward. However, it isn’t an automatic given that permission will be granted and the parents can always revoke said permission without notice or reason. Yea, I know that sounds almost too lawyer-ish.

People > Technology

It’s amazing that this has to be said, but people are more important than technology. I feel that all of us, kids and adults, forget that a real human is on the other side of the screen. Too often we get absorbed in what we are doing and might say or do something that hurts someone in real life.

This could be as innocent as not hearing a parent or child asking a question because we want to see what happens next in Cobra Kai. This can also be much more damaging, such as when people use social media to verbally assault others. Neither is acceptable and parents must set an example that that style of behavior won’t be tolerated.

Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice

I advocate for trust until I have a reason not to trust someone. No child needs to have TVs, games, laptops and other devices in their room. However, I understand that privacy is important. It’s nice to be able to talk with friends and make jokes. Where I draw the line is when behavior is dangerous and rules aren’t followed.

I’ve taken time to teach my kids about staying safe online. From using strong passwords to never giving out personal information. I’ll allow phones and laptops to be used in a bedroom, but that is done for the first sign of trouble. That includes staying up until all hours of the morning texting.

Tech in the bedroom is really a personal choice. Discuss your opinions with your partner and make a decision that is right for you and your family. Your child’s past behavior and your level of trust with them will really drive this decision.

You Break, You Buy

I once saw an excellent sign in an antique shop:

You break, you buy. I break, I cry

The idea was essentially that if you break it then you pay for whatever you broke. Kids sometimes looks to us and think we are the First Bank of Mom and Dad. I wish I was a bank because that would be awesome. Alas, like many of you I have to work for a living. Buying new devices because someone was careless isn’t fun. I also shouldn’t have to do it.

My philosophy has been that I’ll buy the first device, such as a phone. If the device breaks due to my child’s negligence they get to help pay for the replacement. If you’re old enough for a phone then you have to be old enough for the responsibility that comes with owning a device.

This has met with resistance since it, and I quote, “just isn’t fair”. I wholeheartedly agree! It isn’t fair that I work and buy something. The device is broken out of misuse and I have to foot the bill for another item. Requiring that your child share in the replacement cost can help reinforce the value of a dollar and lead to better device care in the future.

Real World First

The last in my list of meaningful technology rules is that the real world comes first. What I mean by this is that if our family has the opportunity to do something outdoors we will. Tech is entertaining, but we cannot become so absorbed that we forget to appreciate this huge world.

I have a few strategies for this rule. First is that when we go hiking as a family the parents carry phones, but not the kids. Then the parents only use the phones for an emergency or a group photo. We aren’t looking at online reviews or texting friends. We take in the good ‘ol outdoors and encourage our kids to learn to appreciate it as much as we do.

No phones during meal time is another hard rule. People fly about the day and barely have time to relax. Meal time is when we can connect and speak as a family and discuss the day. It’s important to me and serves as a chance to make sure everyone is as happy and healthy as they can be.

Setting meaningful technology rules can be a challenge. Enforcing them can be even more so since you might have to change some of your bad behaviors. However, it’s something I highly encourage my fellow dads to do. Humans invented technology and, for now at least, we control it. So teach your kids that tech is useful, but not the sole purpose of life. Proper rules and boundaries ensure a healthy mix of on and off time.

You may have heard about virtual private networks (VPNs) and wondered if your family could benefit from using one. VPNs are useful when using Wi-Fi networks that aren’t your own. Basically, any public Wi-Fi such as schools, cafes, airports, and other locations out of your home. VPNs have a few key benefits. Namely they help keep your family’s data safe from ISPs, cloak your location, and provide additional security against bad actors.

What follows is an introduction to VPNs and a guide on how to select a VPN for your family.

What’s a VPN?

As I mentioned in the introduction, VPN stands for virtual private network. An often used analogy is that of a tunnel. If the internet is a highway, which it kind of is for information, a VPN is a tunnel. Information travels along the “highway” which is actually servers and devices located all over the world.

Without a VPN your information is traveling along a wide-open highway. When you use a VPN your information now travels through the tunnel, away from prying eyes.

When using a VPN your data is never sent or received directly. Rather, it’s routed throug the VPN’s servers. Depending on the VPN you select you can send and receive packets from servers all over the world.

If your looking to explain a VPN to a younger child you can use the curtain analogy. Your house address is public. Many homes have numbers on the front and some are painted on the curb. However, you can install curtains or shutters to keep people from peering into your living room. A VPN is like the curtain or shutters.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

At this point many people react that they don’t need a VPN. They aren’t doing anything wrong online, so why pay to obfuscate your online activity?

Let’s keep with the curtain example. I didn’t install curtains on my front windows because I do anything bad in my home. I installed curtains because I don’t want people walking by and seeing me watching football in my underwear (sorry for that visual, folks).

The point is that you are most likely a good person who has nothing to hide. That’s good! But you and your family also deserve privacy which is why you should consider a VPN for your family.

The leading reasons for using a VPN are:

  • Enhanced privacy/security
  • Getting around geographic restrictions

Admittedly, for those of us in the U.S. at least, the second option might not be as valid. If you’ve ever been out of the country and tried to access a site only to be blocked, however, you know the value of a VPN for people in other countries.

Security Reasons to Use a VPN

First let’s get something straight. Using a VPN does not make you invisible online. If you are up to no good, using a VPN won’t make you anonymous.

A VPN will help keep your data in transit more secure. This is really the prime benefit of using a VPN. Time for another example.

You’re at a coffee shop getting some work done and need to fill out a form for your kid’s school. You go to the school site and complete the form providing names, addresses, and ages. A simple click and the form is sent without any further thought.

The issue in the above example is that a cafe internet connection can be compromised. A bad actor listening in could intercept your communication and have access to sensitive information.

Using a VPN would have enforced military-grade encryption on the data. So that same bad actor could intercept the message, but it would appear to be jumbled information and not useful.

How To Select a VPN For Your Family

Selecting a VPN for your family can be tricky business. I’ll provide a few tips that I follow when reviewing providers.

Beware of Free

Free is so appealing. Who doesn’t want something for nothing? Unfortunately, life doesn’t like to give out freebies too frequently.

If you come across a free VPN be sure to read the fine print if you want to use their services. Many free providers will serve you ads. Others will monitor your activity and then sell it to data brokers and other firms.

While shelling out money isn’t fun it can help reduce the risk of working with a low-quality VPN service. Providers that maintain their own servers and have been in business a number of years have expenses. It’s understandable that they would then need to charge for their services. Typical rates will be $75/year though many providers offer discounts for multi-year subscriptions. Even with a reasonably priced VPN the opportunity for abuse still exists. This is why trust is the next big consideration when selecting a provider.

Does the Provider Log Your Activity?

Like I said above, trust is huge when selecting a VPN service.

One topic you need to review is whether the provider will maintain connection logs of your activity. Some providers pride themselves on offering a fully anonymous service. They don’t keep connection logs and, thus, are unable to provide them to governments or risk access by a bad actor.

Other providers will keep logs, but only surrender them in the event of extreme abuse. Conducting illegal activities online would fall under the definition of extreme abuse.

The final category of provider is one that should be avoided. These “VPNs” actively keep logs and also analyze your traffic all in the name of providing a better user experience. If you’re logging my activity and tracking my traffic then why should I pay for a VPN service? Don’t waste your money with this final category of providers.

Types of Logs

Should you come across a VPN you want to use, but read that they collect logs it’s worthwhile to dig a bit deeper. Not all logs are created equal.

Connection logs are used to track the amount of data that is transferred and the times connected. The actual content of the transfer isn’t tracked. Realistically most VPN service providers keep connection logs. It just is part of maintaining a network of servers.

Usage logs aren’t so nice. These logs do track your online activity during your session. If you see a provider who admits to keeping usage logs then keep searching for a new service.

Using a VPN

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect VPN. The company is trustworthy with a solid operating history. You feel the price is reasonable and you’re ready to use the service. You’ve mastered the first part, how to select a VPN for your family. Now you just need to know how to use the darn thing.

While each service is slightly different most VPNs operate the same way. Once you’ve paid your fee you are able to download an app for your mobile or computer. You’ll be required to create an account with the standard username and password (tips for a strong password).

When it’s time to use the VPN you’ll launch the app and select a server you want to use. Know that if you pick a foreign server your search results may appear foreign. I can’t tell you how many times I connect to a foreign server, such as Spain, and conduct a search only to have the results in Spanish. If you’re the adventurous type this can be a bit of fun!

VPN country list

Depending on the service you selected the VPN might have “quick connect” options. These connect you to any server quickly. Others let you select the specific geo location you’d like to connect to. Speeds play a big factor so be sure to pay attention to servers with heavy traffic as your queries may be returned slower.

Finally, disconnecting from the VPN is as easy as clicking the “disconnect” button.

As dads we want to protect our families. Most of us wouldn’t consider going to sleep with a door unlocked. We tend to think about physical threats, but not the digital ones. With our lives increasingly online it’s necessary to think about cyber risks in our daily lives.

Using a VPN won’t make you immune to malware or prevent your smartphone from collecting telemetry data. However, it can help keep information sent over the information highway secure via encryption.

Learning how to select a VPN for your family can be a fun and rewarding experience! To aid in your search checkout Wirecutter’s list of best VPN services.

As our society started to modernize, we started to find new, different ways to make the most out of new inventions. While we rely on technology at work, we also use it at home quite a bit. In many ways, technology has managed to revolutionize our lives while providing in creative ways for us to enjoy and make the most out of life. In this article I’ll discuss some of the many benefits of using technology at home.

Benefits of Using Technology at Home

Improved Communication

It would be tough to argue that technology hasn’t improved how we communicate. Thanks to technology, people are just a phone call or a click away. We take this for granted, but it’s a big deal. Being able to simply and cheaply connect with the ones we love when we want has allowed families separated by oceans to stay connected.

Increased Productivity

Sometimes we lack the tools and features we need to improve our productivity. Thankfully, technology helps automate many tasks. From robot vacuum cleaners to smart appliances that seem to have limitless potential. Technology can make us more productive and free up time to focus on the activities that we enjoy.

However, parents must be sure to properly secure smart home devices from hackers and teach their kids about healthy screen time. It’s far too easy to let technology get too ingrained in our lives, resulting in more negatives than positives.

Identifying Health Issues

Smartwatches and high tech medical equipment can easily identify health issues. Then you can go to the doctor and address said issues. Health Tech has revolutionized how many people treat illnesses and seek information. Connected devices, such as blood glucose monitors, have made it possible for people with illnesses to lead a more normal life.

Health Tech has also impacted doctors and medical professionals who can now monitor a patient remotely. Gone are the days of having to go into the hospital on a regular basis for check-ins. That means more time for family and fun!

Expanded Search Capabilities

Thanks to technology and more specifically the internet, you can find solutions to everything you want. You can buy nearly anything your mind can imagine online, research the topics you are interested in and find communities of people with shared interests.

I’m old enough to remember libraries, encyclopedias, and (gasp!) the Dewey Decimal System (Google it kiddos). Needless to say entering my query into a search engine and getting thousands of results in 0.12 seconds is amazing!

Increasing Your Security

Some of our frequent readers will find this item odd. Normally I’d discuss how you have to secure such and such a device, keep strong passwords, and myriad other security measures. I still believe all that and think every parent has a duty to teach their kids about good cyber security practices.

With all that said, technology can also be used to boost your personal security. GPS-enabled devices allow parents to know where their kids are and who they are connecting with online. Home security devices give you more control over who enters your home. Digital lockers also provide a means to backup important documents and photos.

Technology is like any tool. It can be used for good and bad. We have to protect ourselves from those who use it for bad. We also have to enjoy and take full advantage of all the positives that it brings to our lives! I for one am not a Luddite enough to want to go back to the pre-tech “Dark Ages”.

Access to Global Knowledge

When I was a lad in school we had pen-pals. I’d write a letter with pen and paper, mail it through “snail mail” and eventually get a response. This could take weeks.

Today you can chat with people from all over the world anytime you want. The access to knowledge on a global scale is one of the greatest benefits of using technology at home. Can’t travel to Europe? Your kids can watch some educational videos on YouTube then, with parental supervision, find an online pen-pal from a kid-safe site and chat with others on the other side of the world. It’s a great opportunity to expand a young mind and all you need is an internet connection.

Saving Time and Money

In the age of click-to-buy with Amazon this might not seem to be true, but we can save time and money using technology.

It’s now easier than ever to purchase items on the cheap via auction sites (eBay) or from large merchants. Online storage is certainly cheaper, in many cases free, and much more convenient than the ‘ol floppy disk or external hard drive.

“Time is money” is one expression that we’ve all heard and is true. Deciding between picking up a prescription or watching your kids soccer game isn’t a fun choice. Clicking a button while at your kids soccer game to schedule curb side pick up is an excellent option!

It can be helpful to rely on technology. It has the potential to help solve life’s problems in a variety of ways. The right tech can eliminate time-wasters. It’s important to use tech whenever you can, but at the same time you still need to have some limitations as it can be very addictive. Used wisely, technology has the potential to change your life and eliminate many of the chores and challenges many of us encounter throughout the day.

Many technological devices and applications can be used in multiple ways and for either good or bad reasons. If you’re a parent and are curious about VPNs and if you children should be using one, we put together this quick post to introduce the topic. By the end of this article you will be able to answer “what is a VPN” and have some idea if it is right for your children.

What is a VPN

A VPN, or virtual private network, is essentially a service that routes an internet connection through a server. This hides your online actions and can make accessing the web safer. Many parents at this point probably read “hides your online actions” and decided this is not for kids. Don’t be too hasty with your judgment and let’s dig in deeper.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, a VPN can be used for naughty reasons. Kids trying to get around parental controls? A VPN is an excellent tool for that purpose (kids: please don’t actually do this!).

Think of the VPN as a steel-reinforced tunnel between your device and the internet. You enter the tunnel when you connect to the VPN via your device. The VPN then masks your IP address, so it would appear as if you are coming from a different location, then connects to the internet. That steel tunnel is tough to penetrate and provides protection, to a degree, for those wanting to hide their identity. The VPN will also encrypt incoming and outgoing data to protect it from prying eyes.

VPNs got their origin with remote workers. It allowed people to connect to a corporate network when they weren’t at the physical office. Today this is a little less necessary. Most websites, and certainly the ones an employee should be using, use the HTTPS protocol. Many browsers also notify you via a pop-up if you attempt to access a risky site. So while the original use-case may no longer be the leading use-case, other reasons for using a VPN exist.

Should Your Kids Use One?

At the end of the day this decision will really come down to you, the parent, and how much you trust your children. VPNs do make it more difficult to monitor your child’s online activity.

As I mentioned above a VPN can be used to get around parental controls and other limitations, such as a school network. The very nature of a VPN means that your children’s digital adventures will be hidden. For many parents this is a huge, and unnecessary, risk.

For the most part, I agree.

However, a part of me, the nerdy part, also wants my children to understand what a VPN is, how and why they are used, and to have experience using one.

While I certainly hope my kids don’t have much to hide from me, the use of a VPN could help obfuscate their online profiles from preying and unwanted eyes. The use of a VPN will also keep my kids more secure if they are out and accessing public WiFi or any other high risk network.

When Should Your Child Use a VPN?

I like to travel with my family. Prior to the pandemic we would take a trip once a year out of the country. It gives us an opportunity to explore another culture and world. This relates to VPNs because not all countries are as free and open as the U.S.

Let’s take a look at China. A number of years ago we took a family trip to see the Great Wall. It was amazing! However, I also encountered the Great Firewall of China. If you haven’t heard, this is China’s firewall that allows the government to censor and control what is allowed online.

While I was technically on PTO I still wanted to check my work email. The issue? The company I was with had us using Gmail and that cannot be accessed within China. I had to rely on a trusty VPN to check my work messages.

This is a fairly harmless example and, yes, a VPN could be used for much worse. However, it serves to highlight the fact that a VPN doesn’t automatically equal bad intentions.

For parents who have a child living or studying abroad a VPN could be a perfectly normal tool to ensure communication with family back home isn’t interrupted.

A VPN acts as a tunnel between your device and the internet. It adds security and privacy when you’re online. For certain cases, such as when accessing a risky network, they do have some benefit. However, most kids won’t need to use a VPN. It’s important to speak with your child about the benefits and risk of technology. However, it doesn’t mean that you must endorse or permit the use of that technology.

The use of a VPN will ultimately come down to the use case and your comfort level as the parent.