Digital Safety: An Ongoing Conversation
We are parents just like you, who are concerned with the content that our children consume digitally. We, too, struggle with how best to allow our kids to safely navigate the online world. With recent revelations about data and privacy issues involving Facebook, the headlines stoke our fears and raise questions, such as, How much do we allow? How much do we restrict? What is safe? What is harmful?
We at BridgingApps advocate for kids with disabilities and their families to leverage mobile devices to enhance their lives. Period. We have adopted the approach to technology that Alexandra Samuel outlines in her 2015 article in The Atlantic, which is that we strive to be digital mentors for our kids. Our goal as parents and as professionals is to assist kids to “navigate the digital world, rather than shield them from it.” This approach does not mean that we do not limit or restrict online access, but rather that we actively work with our kids – at their level – to help develop their online skills and experiences with the digital world. Such skill development is critical to help our kids transition successfully into adulthood. It is not a one time discussion, but an ongoing conversation. Let’s help them practice problem-solving, critical thinking and supported decision making in a safe environment at home before they are adults.
We have put together a list of helpful tips and some of our favorite apps that support mobile device mentorship, and we encourage you to share your own ideas and journey with us. What tools have you found helpful?
Top 5 Things Parents Can Do
- Familiarize yourself with Settings on your child’s device, especially Restrictions, Privacy and Location settings. Think of the Settings as global controls for the mobile device, explore them, get to know what they control and monitor them.
- Familiarize yourself with settings within individual apps. Most apps have settings and controls built into the apps that can be accessed either within the app itself (often looks like a gear icon) or within the Settings section of your tablet or smartphone. For example: Turn off location services for certain apps on your devices including camera and social networking sites.
- Write a digital contract together with each child that 1) clarifies what constitutes being a good digital citizen and 2) provides an opportunity for explaining not to share personal information online. Here is one example of a digital contract that can give you ideas to create your own: http://www.imom.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/imom-cell-phone-contract.pdf
- Explain that public Wifi is not a secure environment for sharing sensitive information like account numbers, medical information, or financial documents.
- Explore apps, features, and settings together with your kids! Download an app together and walk through each of the areas of the app, discussing each feature and make choices about how it can be used, and if certain sections should be turned off.
Quick Tips and Videos
Gaggle offers school districts a system that identifies suspicious items and allows control and transparency for teachers and administrators.
Guided Access Video – (locking one into a single app on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch)
Timer Video – (Using the Clock to limit time spent on an app)
Tackling Screen Time – (Strategies for managing screen time)
Parental Control & Screen Time
By Eturi Corp.
A simple family locator and parental control app that allows parents to locate family members and limit screen time by blocking internet and app access. From the dashboard, parents can quickly and easily block texting and specific apps, control screen time, and even locate family members.
Find my Family, Friends, Phone
An intuitive tracker app to keep family, friends and caregivers connected. The app runs on your mobile device and allows you to view your family members on a map, communicate with them, and receive alerts when your loved ones leave and arrive at home, school or work.
PBS KIDS Video
Access to thousands of free videos, including full episodes and clips from PBS KIDS series. Kids can watch their favorite PBS KIDS shows anytime, anywhere. Reinforces literacy skills, basic math concepts, social and emotional growth and other educational goals.
By Google, Inc.
With YouTube Kids parents can customize the user settings and turn the search feature off, which is a great option to keep kids safe. Developers use a mix of filters, user feedback and human reviewers to keep the videos in YouTube Kids family friendly. No system is perfect, so YouTube Kids is constantly working to improve safeguards and offer more features to help parents create the right experience.
Digital Compass – Common Sense
By Common Sense Media
A choose-your-own adventure, interactive game available in English and Spanish. Lets users step into the shoes of one of eight characters to experience the twists and turns of daily digital life. Digital Compass provides opportunities to the do the following: explore, experiment, make decisions, rationalize, take risks, judge conventions, assert individuality, express oneself, form relationships (non-platonic), and interact with peers.
If you are interested in searching for more apps, creating your own list of apps and sharing them, please go to BridgingApps.org. BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, is a community of parents, therapists, doctors and teachers who share information about using mobile devices with people who have special needs.