The 411 for Parents on Kids and Technology

The issue of how kids and technology interact is one that reaches far beyond kids and cell phones. Here are some tips for parents to help deal with the avalanche of technology in our daily lives.

By Paula Spencer

From cell phones and video games to the Web and virtual playgrounds, changing and new technologies are transforming parenting for those of us raising kids in the 21st century. These days, tech-savvy kids adapt easily to new technology and gadgets, while parents are often left behind reading the instruction manual.

So here’s how to deal…

  • with the intimidation factor
  • with safety worries
  • with how to help your child be responsible
  • with the question of whether your child is ready

D - Don’t duck dealing with technology
E - Exercise reason
A - Address the big issues with your child: Be safe! Be responsible! Be human!
L - Learn about options that work for you

D - Don’t duck dealing with technology
    It’s tempting to ignore it, whether out of fear, intimidation, ignorance, dislike, or being too busy. But technology isn’t optional; it’s everywhere. Unlike us, today’s kids have never known a world without the Internet, cell phones, digital games. To kids, it’s not the future, it’s the world they know.
    Kids will access technology whether you’re on board or not. Though they have the comfort level, we have the perspective (on safety, suitability, age-appropriate use). Remember that kids need supervision with technology just like anything else.
    Technology offers families many benefits: more efficient communications, educational resources, entertainment, and for preteens/teens, opportunities for self-expression, experimenting with identity, and practicing social-interaction skills (all important social-emotional development tasks at this age).
    Your job as a parent: to balance kids’ curiosity, comfort level, and need for independence with common sense.

E - Exercise Reason
    Manage dangers: Take advantage of available content filters and blockers, whether built-in or external.
    Manage contacts: Know where your child is “going” with technology. Look at buddy and friends lists; check computer “history” to see where your child has been.
    Manage hidden costs: Set rules about what kind of music, videos, games, ringtones, and audio books can be downloaded. Know whether monthly fees are involved with websites and games.
    Manage access: Keep computers in a central room and make rules about when technologies can/can’t be used (e.g. not at school, not during homework, not after bedtime).

A - Address the big issues with your child: safety, responsibility, humanity. Tell your kids:
    Be safe!

  •     Never share or reveal personal information (real names, birthdays, addresses, school names, phone numbers, age, credit card information).
  •     Be especially wary of protecting your privacy in online surveys, sign-up forms, and social-networking sites.
  •     Know everybody on your buddy list; don’t “talk” to virtual strangers.
  •     Never make plans to meet anyone in person whom you don’t know.
  •     Don’t transmit photos of yourself or others; they can be identifying or embarrassing.

    Be responsible!

  •     Respect other people: If you wouldn’t say something out loud to someone, don’t say it in an IM, text message, email, blog, etc.
  •     Realize that electronic info is forever: text messages, emails, photos, web pages, and profiles can be forwarded endlessly and never disappear.
  •     Respect that there’s a time and place for everything: no IMs in class, no surfing after light’s out, etc.
  •     Don’t believe everything you read.
  •     Take care of the equipment. Don’t lose it, loan it, or leave it unattended.

    Be human!

  •     Make sure your day involves different kinds of play and socializing (sports, reading, face-to-face talking); they’re all really important to well-being.
  •     Pull yourself away. Scientists are finding that electronic games can be literally addictive; that’s why parents are watching the clock.

L - Learn about options that work for you
Learn about the options to be sure you’re comfortable with them.

  •     Have your kids show you what they use and how; try it out (log on, send text message, play an online game, check a MySpace page)
  •     Check rating systems for games and sites or look up independent reviews to check age-appropriateness.
  •     Research specific products in terms of how they work, how they keep kids safe.

    Learn about the potential pitfalls.

  •     Safety: Figure out the critical dangers of each technology.
  •     Cost: Up front as well as ongoing charges, hidden charges.
  •     Time-consumption: When gadgets are used, and for how long.

When is your child ready for a particular technology?

    There are no one-size-fits-all answers, for individual gadgets or children. You have to look at:
    Your family’s needs. Are you working and/or a single parent for whom constant communication is especially useful? Is your child involved in many after school activities? Does your child need a computer for school?
    Your child’s maturity level. Will your child take care of equipment? Does your child appreciate its cost? Do you trust him/her to use it appropriately in terms of other people? Is he/she emotionally ready?
    Your gut feelings. Are you saying “yes” to a technology because you feel your child is ready and it fills a purpose? Are you giving in to peer pressure or are you confident that a technology makes sense for your child, your family?

Kids and Cell Phones
    Almost every kid wants one, so it is important to know your options. kajeet, a pay-as-you-go cell phone and service made for kids, has the Configurator, a suite of easy-to-use online tools that let families customize the phone and service to meet their unique needs. Kids and families never had it so easy with features like:
    • TimeManager Set up times when their kajeet phone can and can’t be used.
    • WalletManager Determine who pays for what – whether it’s talk time or text messages – with virtual wallets for both parents and kids.
    • ContactManager Determine who can or can't call or text the kajeet phone.
    • FeatureManager Decide when to turn features like IM, Picture Messaging, Web Browsing, & Downloads on and off at any time.


About kajeet™

Kajeet, the cell phone service made for kids, is based in Bethesda, MD, but kids are the center of our universe. Kajeet keeps parents talking with their children and teens with online parental controls and kid-friendly features. With kajeet, there are no pesky contracts or surprise bills. Parents can find kajeet phones online at


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