How to manage your children's new electronic devices and keep them safe
Read our latest blog post for tips on how to keep your children safe as they learn.
With the holiday season just behind us, a growing number of teens have access to multiple internet-capable electronic devices. Many families question how to handle their children’s new technology and the accompanying distraction.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, nearly 73 percent of children ages 13 to 17 have access to a smartphone and 87 percent to a desktop or laptop computer.
The Amazon smart speakers certainly are one of the biggest hits with kids this year. They are fun and perform some personal assistant functions; however, new technology like “Alexa” or similar electronic components like “Siri” and Google Now, can be problematic in the field of research.
There are two immediate main concerns with these devices:
1. Accuracy and timeliness of the information.
2. Plagiarism issues due to the inability to accurately cite sources.
A student may be able to ask “Alexa” for the answer to a math problem, but they will have no work to support it.
The biggest educational value I see is for the student who decides to completely reprogram the device to turn it into something with an alternative function. At that point, the value is more within the ability to code and use that device as a vessel, rather than the platform itself.
So how do we ensure our children can enjoy and use technology appropriately while keeping them safe? Here are some common questions regarding technology in the home and some tips for helping to monitor your child's activities.
What is the best way for parents to monitor electronics when some of them are used for school?
Learners no longer need to go to a library or their family’s Encyclopedia Britannica to research a subject. They have a world of information at their fingertips on the internet. This means they can research subjects to a depth previously unavailable to the average person, but it also means they might stumble upon inappropriate content or contact with others. Taking precautions can minimize the risks to your learners while they're using the internet.
- Place the computer and other internet-capable devices in a location of your home where you can easily see what your children are doing.
- Use parental controls to limit access to sites that are inappropriate for children. TechRadar recently published its top 10 list of free parental control software, with Qustodio, OpenDNS Family Shield and Kidlogger in the top three spots. Click here to see the complete list and benefits of each.
- Teach your learners about exposure on the internet and how to limit the information they share and with whom they share it.
- Set acceptable use expectations with your learners, and make sure they know it’s safe to come to you if they stumble upon something they shouldn’t.
How can I minimize distractions when my learners use electronics for schoolwork?
These tips will help your learners stay focused on the educational task and minimize distractions.
- Create a family policy that all nonessential electronics are “turned in” each morning and returned to the learner after school each day. Laptop or desktop computers are necessary for completing schoolwork, especially for cyber school students. Chances are their iPads, iPods and cellphones aren’t as necessary. If your learner is expecting a phone call from a teacher on a personal cellphone, make sure the phone is within hearing distance but out of your student’s reach.
- Use parental controls and block websites your students shouldn’t be accessing during school hours or at all.
- Pay attention to what your learners are doing, and redirect them when necessary. Having their workspace in a visible location of your home will help with this.
Is it OK to allow my child to listen to music while doing schoolwork?
Although there’s no right or wrong answer to this one, countless studies show the positive effect music has on studying, memory and concentration. If it falls within your house rules during study time, go for it. As always, keep an eye on your learners to make sure their background music hasn’t turned into the newest "Dance Dance Revolution" tournament starring them. If your learners use headphones and you have a concern about what they’re listening to, have them listen through speakers.
How do I create an effective workspace for my learner?
Workspaces will look different based on the needs of each learner and the available space in the home. Whether it is a room devoted to schoolwork, a desk in the corner of a family living area or part of the dining room table, all effective workspaces have things in common.
Effective workspaces are:
• Free from clutter. Remove all distractions such as toys, unnecessary electronics and items that aren’t needed in the workspace.
• Fully equipped with the technology for your student to do schoolwork (laptop or desktop, printer, etc.).
• Well-stocked with all materials needed (pens, pencils, notebook paper, calculator, scissors, glue, tape, colored pencils, ruler, protractor, compass, folders, binders, stapler, etc.) to complete work and portfolios.
• Organized. If learners can’t find their books, supplies or schoolwork, they will waste valuable time searching. This causes stress and sets a negative tone for the rest of the school day. Color coding is a great way to keep track of which materials go with which subject. Consider using a bookshelf with one subject and corresponding supplies on each shelf, or a drawer or bin system in the same way.
• Inspiring. Does the workspace inspire learning? Artwork, educational posters, natural light and neutral pastels are ways to create a fresh, inspiring workspace.
About the Author
Natasha Shane is a family involvement manager in the Harrisburg region.See All Posts Written by This Author