Anable, Lowery: Making the internet safer for kids while creating healthy tech habits

Technology is changing childhood, and there are red flags everywhere. How do you know if your child is spending too much time spent with technology — and if he or she is safe?

Susan Anable

First, think about balance, and ask yourself if their device use is taking away from important activities, such as family meal time, academics and sleep.

Modeling behavior is the best place to start if you want your children to have healthy tech habits. But there is so much for parents to know: What privacy settings should you use? What should I know about parental controls? What apps are appropriate? Are voice-assisted devices safe? And what about sharing information?

As parents, we spend a lot of time trying to keep our kids safe. The reality is the internet no longer is something kids log onto for a few hours at a time. So, keeping them safe includes being super smart about tech and the internet.

June is Internet Safety Month, and it’s a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on digital well-being and online safety.

It also is an ideal time for families to foster conversations around how to better manage and control their tech use, and determine how they can benefit from everything technology has to offer without sacrificing quality time with the activities and people they care about most.

Ilana Lowery

Going completely tech-free isn’t a solution, as it has become entwined into the fabric of everyday life at home, school and the workplace. Even if you’ve talked to your kids about screen-time limits, privacy and responsible behavior online, it’s still tough to manage what they do when you’re not there (and even when you are).

But there are tools available to help maintain a healthy balance. For example, Cox customers with Panoramic Wifi can use its “bedtime” mode to pause internet access for certain devices at routine times.

Pausing wifi access helps create an environment where it’s easier to spend quality time together, focus on homework or just enjoy a quiet moment without distractions.

Parents also can create profiles for everyone in the household with nicknames and avatar icons through the app, making it easy to view and manage individual internet usage.

The app can support hundreds of devices, making it easy (and smart!) to add frequent houseguests.

Parents can control use at the individual level, making it possible to pause internet access for one child at a time during their designated homework time. This gives parents a great way to set and enforce house rules and routines when it comes to internet use.

While adults usually have a better understanding of why internet safety — and tech balance — is so important, Common Sense also offers these basic tips to keep your family safe online:

  • Prevent unwanted exposure. Cover the camera on your computer, and on any smart device, when you’re not using it. Better yet, turn those devices off when they’re not in use.
  • Have a no-tracking zone. Turn off geolocation tracking on your phone and your kids’ phones. Only leave it on when it’s needed, such as for navigating an unexpected traffic jam.
  • Get educated. Read Common Sense’s Kids Privacy Zone report. Then talk to your kids about steps they can take to model good digital citizenship and be safe, responsible and effective online.
  • Don’t overshare. Think twice before you post something that may be embarrassing to your kids. The same goes for sharing information that could make your kids easier targets of identity theft. A full name, date and city of birth, and parents’ names can go a long way in the wrong hands.
  • Change the default. Change any remaining default passwords on your smart devices at home. This makes it harder for hackers to access them. And while you’re at it, make sure all your smart devices have the latest software and security updates.

For more tips and resources, visit commonsense.org.

For more information about Panoramic Wifi and parental controls available for high speed internet, visit cox.com.

Editor’s Note: Susan Anable is the southwest vice president of public affairs with Cox Communications. Ilana Lowery is the Arizona director for Common Sense, the go-to source of information about kids’ well-being in the digital age.

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