High-Tech Parenting Expert Offers Online Safety Tips for Kids, Parents

NEW YORK, NY (March 29, 2012) – From smartphones to social networks, technology has permanently invaded kids’ lives, says Scott Steinberg, creator of the bestselling The Modern Parent’s Guide high-tech parenting books (free to download on Sony Reader, Amazon Kindle and at http://www.ParentsGuideBooks.com). But with children aged 2-5 better equipped to run apps than tie their shoelaces, and over 80% of two year-olds suddenly boasting an online presence, parents and educators must be prepared to teach them essential digital citizenship and online safety tips.

“Technology, Internet and online safety and etiquette, including basic principles of digital citizenship, must now be taught at home and in school from the earliest age,” says Steinberg, who cautions against sending children out unprepared for life in the wireless world. Consider that according to Consumer Reports alone, over 7.5 million kids under age 13 use Facebook against its terms of use (five million aged 10 and under), while First Monday says that parents are actively lying to help them join these services, despite 88% having witnessed cruel or mean acts therein. “That’s a serious problem when roughly 7 in 10 parents don’t use parental controls, and say schools should to do more to teach technology, yet studies show that 36% of teachers have received zero training in the field,” he explains.

To help tame the high-tech beast, Steinberg advises that digital parents employ the following online safety and privacy tips:

Online Safety Tips for Kids and Parents

  • Homework is for parents too: Always study, research and go-hands on with new technologies to make more informed decisions.
  • If time’s tight, get a crash course on new offerings, trends and features by visiting popular product review sites or searching for online tutorials, e.g. “How to Turn Off iPhone Purchases.”
  • Besides employing kid-friendly software, apps and web filters, educate children on online dangers and encourage them to speak up when questionable content or situations are encountered.
  • Use the parental controls built into popular entertainment devices, video game consoles and operating systems, and password-protect your settings – but don’t employ easily guessable choices like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Activate privacy features built into popular social networks to limit strangers’ access to personal status updates, photos and videos.
  • Confine screens to common household areas such as playrooms and dens, so usage and play habits can be monitored.
  • Establish predetermined times when usage of high-tech devices is permitted or banned (e.g. during dinner), and always shut screens off at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Create and enforce house rules: Experts recommend no more than 60-120 minutes of screen time daily, balanced with other low-tech activities. Some families add or subtract time as a reward or punishment for children’s behavior.
  • If you’re worried about children’s online interactions, use programs’ and devices’ built-in features to turn off Internet connectivity, disenable digital purchases and restrict interactions to pre-approved friend lists.
  • Talk about safe online spending, and if you allow kids to make purchases, consider restricting these abilities to prepaid cards.
5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Privacy Online
  • Never share personal information on the Internet, including addresses, birthdays, phone numbers, ages, locations and hometowns.
  • Always avoid mentioning when you’ll be away from home… especially when on vacation.
  • Be skeptical of strangers you meet online: What they say, do and post on their profile may not reflect the real-life truth.
  • Think twice before posting potentially offensive, embarrassing or controversial content, as it may come back to haunt you – doubly so in the eyes of college recruiters or prospective employers.
  • Remain wary when meeting strangers in real-life (and do so only in public places), tell others where you’ll be before leaving, and always bring along a friend or responsible adult when doing so.
For more tips on digital parenting, or making technology safe and fun for parents and kids, readers can also reference The Modern Parent’s Guide range of high-tech parenting books at www.ParentsGuideBooks.com. The world’s first high-tech parenting series covering all aspects of connected life, The Modern Parent’s Guide series provides families with the practical, real-world hints, tips and tools they need to make technology a positive and rewarding part of household life.

About the Author

High-tech parenting expert Scott Steinberg is the CEO of business consulting firm TechSavvy Global, Sears Toy Shop’s tech toy expert and one of today’s most sought-after industry analysts, keynote speakers and expert witnesses. Hailed as a top tech and video game expert by dozens of publications from USA Today to NPR, he’s covered business, entertainment and consumer trends for 400+ outlets from Parents to Rolling Stone. A frequent on-air analyst for TV networks including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CNN, he also hosts popular video shows Family Tech and Game Theory.

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