Today’s children have the luxury of technology at their fingertips. In an instant, they can download a favorite song or catch up on a friend’s day. The digital world is a huge privilege for them—but it comes with some risks.
Internet bullying, identity theft, and online addiction are just a few of the dangers that our kids face as they navigate the online world. So how can you teach your child how to use technology safely? Follow these nine tips for ideas.
 Allow Age-Appropriate Screen Time
A total tech ban probably won’t do much to foster a transparent relationship with your kids; going this route means you run the risk of them hiding their tech use from you. Instead, create trust-based rules that focus first on what is allowed. Let your six-year-old have an hour of playtime on the iPad after they finish homework, for example. Just don’t forget to adjust the rules as kids get older and more mature.
Unless you’re receiving a bill, it’s easy to forget that a lot of smartphone games allow for in-app game purchases. Game currency, hints, and upgrades are among the instances of in-app purchases that can cost a substantial amount with just the tap of a button. Communicate rules for these to your kids and check in on your child as they play so they clearly understand your opinions on these offers.
 Review Different Internet Access Methods
To kids, all internet connections seem the same, so you’ll need to help them understand that isn’t always the case. The VPN setup you may use for your home business is different from the regular home network your family uses, and both of those are separate from a public Wi-Fi connection at a local coffee shop. Teach your kids how these networks differ and how they need to adjust online behavior accordingly. Passwords or other personal information can easily be stolen on public Wi-Fi, for instance, so in those environments it’s best to be cautious.
 Teach Kids the Internet is Forever
Remind your children that the images and text they put on the internet and social media could stick around forever, even if they delete it. A provocative photo sent to a crush or an opinionated post about a classmate can’t be instantly removed from their online footprint. And keep the communication open on this subject, because the constant reminder will be helpful as they make spontaneous online choices.
 Review Gaming Rules and Etiquette
Game consoles allow kids to play online games with friends, but they also open a door to online strangers. Online multiplayer gaming allows your kid to talk to other kids and adults online, and they may form friendships with people you don’t know. Talk to your teen often about their online habits, remind them not to give out personal information, and have real conversations about the friends they’ve met online.
 Avoid Internet-Connected Smart Toys
According to the FBI, internet-connected toys should be avoided. These toys typically come with microphones that can record personal data or conversations. This information is stored and exploited, so you should proceed with caution. And if you have to say no to a popular toy purchase, have a conversation about why.
 Understand the Gadgets and Apps
Reading the manual for your new Amazon Echo, Google Home, or the Apple Watch you may provide to your child is the first step to safety. Enable restrictions and understand how your child could be put at risk by using these gadgets. The more informed you are from the beginning, the more you can direct your child on how to use the gizmo responsibly.
 Stay up to Date on New Apps
As new apps are released, kids quickly jump on the bandwagon to figure them out. Stay in the know and talk to your kids about this new technology. Taking a proactive approach like this can help you talk about popular apps and let them know what you will and won’t allow them to use before they’re even interested in using the app.
 Use Technology Together
Sit with your child and watch as they play an online game with their buddies. See how they interact and discuss behavior you do or don’t appreciate. Cursing and bullying happens often in these environments, so be aware. Or check out Instagram together with your tween to see what their friends are posting. You can point out the posts that are concerning and talk about why that post type wasn’t a good idea so they can see why there are rules in place.
Staying Vigilant, Staying Safer
Today’s children are growing up with smart tech all around them. There’s no way to avoid them seeing and using it in their daily lives. But these tips will help you navigate the digital waters so your kid can stay informed and safe online.
Elaine Thompson is a digital journalist in Salt Lake City. She has written for a variety of online publications with a focus on business sustainability and tech. When she's not writing, Elaine loves climbing and hiking in the beautiful Uintahs. You can follow her on twitter @EThompOfficial.
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