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Mom's Talk: Technology and Your Children

How much is too much?

Technology. Think back to just a few years ago, when everyone you knew finally had email! Now the options are endless: e-mail is practically antiquated, what with Facebook, Twitter, smart phones, Skyping, texting, instant messaging, Kindles, iPads and the like. I am a Facebook junkie, but I don't rely on much other technology.  My phone is always with me, and I like to text, but I still like my books made of paper and one computer is enough for me--so I don't consider myself too far gone.

My question is: what about kids? At what age did your kids get a cell phone? Or at what age do you plan to allow it, if they are still too young? How do you ensure that your children are safe online? Do you monitor their activity? Are they allowed to have a Facebook account? Their own e-mail account? Do they text with friends, and how do you know they are doing what they are supposed to if they have constant access to the Internet?

This is a loaded issue for parents, because kids can get into trouble online. There are issues of privacy, worries about school work suffering and myriad dangers to be considered, but no matter how you feel about it, kids will force the issue. I've seen plenty of kids as young as seven or eight years old talking on cell phones, and even though Facebook states that users must be thirteen, we all know it's easy to lie about your age.

A universal truth about kids is that they want to fit in, and in today's world, that means being plugged in. I see it like standing against the ocean, trying to keep kids away from texting and cell phones, the Internet and wanting an iPad for their birthday.

So please share with us! We want to know your strategies for staying away from technology, or what limits you've imposed on your kids, or how you keep them safe. Let us know what rules you have, strategies and struggles--and remember, every Wednesday at 1pm we have a new Mom's Talk, so check back and share often!

Dawn Betke March 16, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I agree the amount of technology available to day compared to when I was my daughters age is astounding! I myself rely on facebook and email far more then talking on the phone, and haven't written an actual letter in who no's howlong! As far as my daughter at nearly 13, she dose have a cell phone, a prepaid phone, that is basically for emergencies or calling me, she has had one now for several years. She dosen't abuse the privlage or text constantly at all. She also has an IPOD, and we have a "family" computer that she can use. She mostly uses it for email and Facebook and researching school work or projects. The computer is located in our living room in a location that is open and the screen faces the entire room. So I basically know what she's doing, not that I feel I have to watch her but you never know what they will come across. Recently she has been asking for a laptop, and I think its inevitable that she will get one at some point. I think with that we may have to have some rules attatched, like at a certain time the laptop comes downstairs, I don't want her on it all night. Overall I think we all have to trust that we raised our children to know what is going on around them. We also need to have faith that if we did our job correctly and they have an issue or problem arises we will be who they turn to.
jean h March 16, 2011 at 05:36 PM
for our family it all comes down to TRUST! i trust that they will do the right thing and my teens trust that i will guide them toward doing the right thing... i ask them, they ask me... open lines of communication are key! as far as "what age?" well, that is totally subjective as it depends on the child... there is no age at which anything is right for every person...
Jen Eager March 16, 2011 at 06:14 PM
that's a good point, about no single age being right for every child. I allowed my younger children to make a Facebook account in order to play a game on it. They were only allowed to friend family members and a couple of close friends that we know well. However, with some families this wouldn't work. We have a family computer where the kids know they will be monitored. My 15 year old has her own laptop and she texts with some friends. She knows that we have control over her computer use and if she does something of which we don't approve, that privilege will be taken from her. But she also knows that we trust her to do the right thing and come to us with problems.
Diane Tucci March 16, 2011 at 06:53 PM
My kids are still too young for the facebook and cell phone issues. I have allowed all there to play preschool games in my computer with supervised use since they were all about three years old. My 8 year old is only starting to bug me for a cell phone (uh, NO WAY!), but she is never anywhere unattended. So I guess when she reaches the age where she may be going to a movie or someplace with her friends where there may not be adult supervision, that is when she will get a phone. I have issues with their DSI's because apparently they can get online with them, so that makes it difficult to let them use unattended for too long. So, as of now, my 8, 6 and 4 year olds are limited to limited DSI games and playing Nick Jr on my computer which I oversee. As they get older, I will adjust the technology to what I feel is appropriate for each child. I will be fine with giving them cell phones because I like the idea that many cell phones have tracking software. I like knowing where my babies are at all times. :)
Kristen Halpin March 16, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Texting is great. It's transformed the way chores get done at our house! They have been using the internet for as long as we've had it in our home. We know all of their passwords to everything, and they know that, so we're not being sneaky. I agree, that trust is a BIG issue. And I trust my girls, but they also know that, as adults, their dad and I can read between the lines of an odd email or weird post on their fb wall from someone, better than they can and can discern when a situation might need some parental input. I don't think that parents should give their children cart blanche access to the internet without monitoring them. I think that is neglectful. They're still learning how to process all kinds of life situations. It's a technological world, much more than we even use right now, so they need to begin to use it and understand it responsibly. We parent them through new social situations and teach them social norms and courtesies, so we also need to parent them through newly emerging technological situations and issues. If my child was screaming on the phone and arguing with a friend, I would try to help her sort through the situation. So, also, I won't ignore other forms of communication. We want to help them become adults who make good choices, so we try to help them understand our decisions and, if we can, make some of those decisions together. I also agree that there is no set age for any of these issues.
Lisa March 17, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Does anyone have special programming on the computer? It allows limited access and gives details of where your child has been. It allows you to set limits even if you are not there. safesocial.com is one such free program available. There are others you can buy. Our Suffolk Police hand out free software of some type also. You can educate ,but kids are curious and sites get passed around thru peers which can lead to trouble.They also surpass adults in technology and know how to do things they are not sharing with you. When kids are active , and with friends alot- a cell phone may be appropriate if you have some control over how its being used. I personally dont endorse facebook for younger people because they do not understand its implications and impact maybe on their future employment opportunities ect.
Jen Eager March 17, 2011 at 07:26 PM
That is a great point, Lisa--I know for a FACT my 15 year old knows more about computers than I do!

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