From cellphones to concerns about Internet safety to social media, parents have a lot to worry about when it comes to technology. Kids needs and desires change very quickly, and now seniors are increasingly tech savvy, so there is a whole new generation that may need help with their computers once in a while. Here are some ideas to help you manage technology for all the generations in your family.
Children are exposed to all kinds of technology at younger and younger ages. From toddlers playing on Mom’s smartphone, to eight-year-olds downloading apps onto their iPods, it can be hard to keep everything straight. Start by considering how much use of technology is OK with you, and make that limit clear to your child. It’s not just TV time to keep track of — using computers, iPods and your smartphone all count as screen time.
Put a password on your child’s iPod or tablet that is required before any purchase, including in-app ones, especially if you have a credit card attached to the device. It’s possible for a young child to spend hundreds of dollars in a game, without even realizing what he is doing, and it takes only minutes to change those security settings so that never happens.
Some devices allow a password for permission to download an app, to restrict apps and Netflix shows to age-appropriate ones, and to prohibit the Internet or YouTube. This prevents your child from stumbling upon anything inappropriate. As he gets older and you let him download apps without a password, check his apps regularly. Visit websites such as www.commonsensemedia.org, which has reviews, ratings and recommended ages for everything from apps and TV shows to movies and video games.
If you’re the parent of a tween, you’ll know that the request for cellphones starts early. Consider how your child would handle the social aspects of having a phone. You may want her to have the phone off at dinnertime and after 9 p.m., but she may feel pressure from friends to stay constantly in touch. The most important thing here: model the behaviour you want to see in your tween. If she can’t use her phone during dinner, neither can you.
As kids get into their teens, they will expect to have more privacy on their phone. Tell your teen that you still want to have occasional access to make sure she is using it responsibly. Remind her that potential employers and university admissions departments check applicants’ social media profiles. She should only post whatever she might want the whole world to see! It’s an exaggeration (unless her post goes viral), but it illustrates the point.
If your teen is old enough to have a part-time job, will she pay for the phone herself? What happens if she goes over her limit on texting or data use? Work these issues out ahead of time, including what the punishment will be, so everyone is clear on the expectations and consequences.
“One of the determinants of health is community connections. Technology can offer that to seniors who would be otherwise isolated.”
While most parents are more concerned with guiding their children with technology, many seniors are online now, and that creates a whole new dynamic for families. According to Statistics Canada, seniors have the fastest growing rate of Internet usage: from 2000 to 2007, it increased by four times. By 2010, 29 per cent of people over age 75 had used the Internet in the previous month; the figure was 60 per cent for those aged 65 to 74. Many seniors have cellphones (although not smartphones) and over half regularly go on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
We shouldn’t assume that seniors aren’t computer literate, says Susan Eng, vice-president of Advocacy for the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP). While they may require help with certain things, such as setting up an account on Facebook or Twitter, once they get past that, how they use the technology is no different than any other generation.
If your parents do need help with their computer or cellphone, assist them (instead of doing it for them), and write the steps down afterward so they can do the task on their own in the future.
Remember that while an in-person visit is best for the seniors in your life, technology can help them keep in touch. “One of the determinants of health is community connections,” says Eng. “Technology can offer that to seniors who would be otherwise isolated.”
And sometimes, she says, the best people to offer those connections, and help with technology, are kids and teens, not their parents. “When you want to program your VCR, call someone under 17,” says Eng, laughing. She adds that CARP has offered programs for seniors and teens to learn about technology together, and the learning went both ways. “Once the senior learned how to hit this button and not that button, what they were searching for was a revelation to the kids,” she says. It helped seniors develop a skill that gave them more connections to their families, and at the same time bridged a generation gap so teens could connect with their grandparents in a new way.