Technology, like everything in life, has its pros and cons. Kids as young as 11 have their own cellphones and tablets and are spending increasing amounts of time in front of their screens.
While technology is great as a communication and learning tool, it needs to be carefully monitored when it comes to access. I don't subscribe to the thinking that kids should be devoid of technology because that is just unrealistic for the world we live in. But I am firmly all about putting constraints and rules in place.
Google has a few products out to help parents monitor their kids' technological habits.
We use this for our 3-year-old son. My favourite part of YouTube kids is that you can enable a timer and the app locks once the time is up. This is particularly useful for little ones whose screen time you want to limit because let's be honest, some kids (mine being one of them) would watch videos all day if they could. These settings are behind a parents-only lock so your kid can't change their time limit.
Another great feature of this app is that you can tailor the type of videos that show up for your child depending on their age. You can also turn off the search function for a more controlled experience.
Google's latest app is Family Link. This one is for older kids who are getting their first Android devices. According to their blog, Family Link "lets you create a Google account for them, which is like your own account, and also helps you set certain digital ground rules that work for your family – like managing the apps your kid can use (all apps downloaded need to be approved by you before downloading), keeping an eye on screen time, and setting a bedtime on your kid’s device."
The app is still in beta testing but families in the US can request an invite to help test the app while Google streamlines the experience for public consumption.
This is fantastic to be honest! How many times have kids spent under the covers, chatting to their friends into the wee hours of the night? How about we just remote lock that phone then?
This obviously leads to a larger conversation though about rules surrounding your child's phone usage. Back in 2013, Janell Burley Hofmann's post about her cellphone contract with her 13-year-old went viral.
In her 18-point list she covers things such as parental access to the device and behaviour when using the phone. It's something every parent should have a look at.
Would you feel better about your young child having a device if you could have this amount of control over it? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could publish them.