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Mom Life

7 Tips to Be A Good Digital Parent

Ever since we gave my older son a phone in middle school, I feel like we talk about it constantly. “Put your phone away while I’m talking to you.” “What are you watching?’ “Who are you texting?” I wish I had talked to Stephen Balkam from the Family Online Safety Institute before we bought the phone.

Balkam chatted with a group of parenting bloggers last week to give us tips about online safety at a luncheon with Verizon for Verizon’s Smart Family App

His advice was simple, but not always easy for parents to follow. He recommended giving kids clear rules when they first get a device and if a child breaks those rules, follow through with consequences.

He gave the example of a mother asking if it was okay to take her child’s phone away because her daughter had broken a rule. She didn’t want her to miss out on anything by going a day without her phone. He asked the mom if she paid for her child’s phone. Of course she did so in fact it’s her phone, not her child’s.

It’s important to communicate with your child. There’s no way to keep up with all of the new apps and websites that come online every day. To help parents navigate this world, Balkham gave us 7 tips to be a good digital parent.

Here are 7 Tips to be a Good Digital Parent:

1) Talk with your kids

  • Stay calm
  • Talk early and often
  • Be open and direct

2) Educate yourself

  • Search online for anything you don’t understand
  • Try out the apps, games and sites yourself
  • Explore the GDP tips and resources

3) Use Parental Controls

  • Activate the safety settings in your operating system, search engine and games
  • Use the parental controls on your children’s phones, tablets and game consoles
  • Monitor your kids use and their screen time

4) Set Ground Rules

  • Agree and sign a family safety contract
  • Set time and place limits for their tech use
  • Enforce sanctions when necessary

5) Friend and Follow But Don’t Stalk

  • Friend your kids on social media
  • Respect their online space and don’t over do it
  • Encourage your kids to create a good digital reputation

6) Explore, Share and Celebrate

  • Go online with your kids and explore their online world
  • Take advantage of new ways of communicating
  • Learn from them and have fun

7) Be a Good Digital Role Model

  • Curb your own bad digital habits
  • Know when to unplug
  • Show your kids how to collaborate and create online

His tips work nicely with Verizon’s Smart Family App, which can help parents stay on top of what their kids are doing online. During our lovely lunch at Esther’s Wine Shop in Santa Monica, we were given a walk through of the app and all of the safety features it offers.

Verizon's Smart Family Tool can help families keep track of kids' online usage. #familysafety #verizon #kidsandphones

The app can track the phone so you’ll always know your child’s location. This is also helpful if he loses the phone or it’s stolen.

Verizon's Smart Family Tool can help families keep track of kids' online usage. #familysafety #verizon #kidsandphones

The app also allows parents to see how much time a child spends online. This was very enlightening. We have something similar set up on my kids’ phones and it’s always interesting to see how much time they spend on Youtube. More interesting (frightening) is seeing how much time I spend on my phone, which goes back to Stephen’s tip about being a good digital role model. I can’t tell my kids to put down their phone as I scroll through Twitter.

Another handy feature of the app is that it can filter content you may find objectionable.

Verizon's Smart Family Tool can help families keep track of kids' online usage. #familysafety #verizon #kidsandphones

Verizon introduced us to another product that can be good for younger kids called the Gizmo Pal, which is a smart watch for kids. It’s almost like an old-school phone that kids can wear on their wrist.

Parents can call kids through the watch (no texting), which is limited to four contacts. It’s a way to keep track of kids and talk to them without giving them a phone. The main reason I gave my boys phones was to find him when I picked him up from school. The watch would have been a perfect way to ease into them having their own phone.

The app and Gizmo are great when accompanied with a good line of communication to our kids and reasonable limitations.

Disclosure: Sarah and I were treated to lunch, information and we were both given a Gizmo Pal for review. All opinions are my own.

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