Parenting before technology when it comes to managing your kid’s online life

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Those with screen time of more than four hours per day were three-and-a-half times likelier to sleep fewer than five hours at night, a probe found. (Jack Frog / shutterstock.com)

You’re tired of fighting with your kids to put the iPad down during dinner or having to skulk around to keep them away from the dark corners of the internet from the dark corners of their bedroom.

You want to trust your kids but the dangers lurking online terrify you.

So, the good news: there are software and hardware solutions to block content, restrict WiFi access to approved times and monitor social media. They are all meant to give parents peace of mind. But the bad news: at some point, your kids can find a way around any technological barrier.

No technology replaces parenting, says tech expert and father of three Carmi Levy. Explain to your kids that you trust them but you’re looking out for their wellbeing, he advises. Set rules for when and how they can use devices and clear consequences for violating them.

“I think some technology solutions give a false sense of security for parents. They can lull some parents into the mistaken belief everything is OK. Protection comes more from a parent’s guidance than an app’s restrictions. We tried a number of technology tools in our house and in every single case, I didn’t feel secure with them.”

Relying only on the technology encourages kids to seek ways around it, including learning hacks from their friends, setting up secret online accounts, or going to a friend’s house where parents aren’t on the ball when it comes to watching their kids’ online activity.

“Parental control tools can only take us so far. It’s like training wheels when they are learning to ride a bike,” said Levy. “Eventually they have to learn to bike without them and kids have to learn to be online without restrictions, too. Parents who think software will do the job are selling themselves and their kids short.”

Matthew Johnson, director of education at MediaSmarts, an Ottawa-based non-profit dedicated to digital and media literacy, agrees that parents should resist the urge to overprotect.

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