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Expert advises parents: If you’re giving kids electronics gifts this festive season: Take the time to educate them.

Expert advises parents: If you’re giving kids electronics gifts this festive season: Take the time to educate them.

Digital expert who trains SA students reveals the safety tips for ‘smart gifts’

December 23, 2019: If you’ve already wrapped a smartphone, tablet, computer, or gaming console, are you ready to teach your kids how to manage their new devices, by helping them to set up carefully, protect their privacy (and exposure), while creating an open space to discuss the risks and challenges of life online?

                           Mother and daughter using smart phone at home.

This is the question posed by a leading SA tech expert who this year has taught thousands of Grade 4 to 12 learners in schools on online safety and ‘digital intelligence’. Access to technology provides teens and pre-teens with access to the world wide web and a vast landscape of adult content, social media, chat forums with strangers, gaming platforms, and more.

Dean McCoubrey, Founder of SA’s Digital Life Skills Program taught in schools, explains, “In one sense, giving tweenagers technology without taking the steps to educate them, set the device up properly, and setting expectations and consequences, is a little like handing over the car keys without a licence.”

The company’s extensive work in schools in 2019 reveals that parents don’t fully realise the extent of the problems because Generation Z appears so adept on the devices. But many are not emotionally mature enough to handle the social pressure to keep up on social media platforms, or to process what they experience or see. Most parents are also unaware of the number of unsolicited approaches via games or messaging or social media, and then, of course, they are being served pornographic content that they may not want to see. “It’s a lot for kids to have to deal with,” he adds.

MySociaLife has a unique vantage point, as the students talk about what they are being exposed to. Parents would be surprised. However, we find ourselves in a position where technology isn’t going away, so it’s pointless to think they won’t be using devices in the future. We have to rather educate our kids. That requires parental guidance on the one side, while schools also need to commence a program like our Digital Citizen Program to double the support for teens and pre-teens. This year, there simply hasn’t been enough digital education in schools – it needs to be taken more seriously, and run by experts that monitor the space, due to its fast-pace of change across apps, social platforms, gaming, websites, settings while also understanding a child’s social pressures and stages of development. The good news is that those that harness technology’s power responsibly will later explore and then excel, and that will set them apart in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This digital education will actually be a differentiator.”

MySociaLife offers 6 tips:

  1. Firstly, parents need to get clear on the level of access that they feel is appropriate for their child. Every family and child is different but do your research on what the risks are to public accounts, the various apps, and sharing location.
  1. Set an agreement with your kids about what is acceptable and not acceptable – how much screen time per day, what content they can view, how they treat other people online, and how private or public their accounts are to be approached by other people. Maybe print out the agreement or list of points and put it on the fridge!
  1. Authorising what is purchased – apps, games, merchandise – is essential for the parents. Using tools like Screen Time ensures apps can only be purchased with the parent’s permission, by setting this up in their phone or app store and being notified before any purchases get made on their credit card. This allows control over what ends up on the child’s device.
  1. Set up the device properly.In “settings” on the device you mostly have to start by visiting the privacy section to set the level of access your child has, or others have to your child and their content – but then also set up up the security settings in each app. Do parents know about ‘Safe Search’ for example on a browser, or ‘Restricted Mode’on YouTube, or even about the app ‘YouTube Kids’ for much younger children? Parents should always have access to the password, and PIN, to check if settings have been changed.
  1. There’s a lot to understand– how much do parents know about a world of apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram. and settings and games? Parents have to get familiar with them on Google by simply typing parent tips + name of the app or game’ and then talk with their kids about them.
  1. Access to data and wifi should be up to the parent as a key bartering tool. For the most part, when kids use technology, it isn’t plain sailing and rules will be broken, so there has to be some consequence for them to start over, change their behaviour and learn better. To achieve that, you will need to have some power and data or wifi access is like gold!

For a smartphone agreement, please go to: https://www.mysocialife.com/2019/10/31/the-smartphone-agreement-one-size-does-not-fit-all/

*Image: Infographic by Statista below on the type of gifts that will be given during the festive season (US region)

**For interviews on this topic: Please contact MySociaLife Founder, Dean McCoubrey, on dean@mysocialife.com or 021 419 3144

***About MySociaLifeDelivering a 10-module Digital Citizenship Course to teens and pre-teens, MySociaLife is the leading Digital Life Skills Program in South Africa, educating Grade 4 to 11 students in the essential skills of critical thinking, privacy, security, empathy and digital resilience, in order to establish a robust and intelligent digital identity. End goal? Safer, smarter kids online – who will be able to explore and excel way beyond their peers – a profound advantage as we slipstream into ‘The Roaring Twenties’.

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