Haven't made any New Year's Resolutions yet? Looking for something to commit to and improve upon in the new year? This blog post is perfect for you!
New Year's resolutions are made to be broken. You might have made the same resolution every year for the past ten years – lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time with friends. The lists can go on and on and leave you feeling overwhelmed. But in a constantly changing digital landscape, your virtual life is just as important as your real one, and digital mistakes can be costly. This year, resolve to adopt a safe approach to changing technologies. It's easier than losing weight, more fun than exercising, and gives you a powerful opportunity to spend time with your kids.
1. Get Technologically Savvy
No one likes to sit down and learn something new when they're rushing through life or struggling to make ends meet. But digital technology is not going away, and you can't protect your family if you don't understand how the Internet, your computer, and your smartphone work. You need to master the basics of social media, particularly the sites your children use. Consider taking a class on digital technology or spending a day online reading up on the sites your children use the most.
2. Talk About the Rules
A new year is a great time to revisit the rules you've established – or want to establish – for your family's digital usage. Consider discussing the following:
How and when your children can use social media
Rules for digital privacy and security
A discussion about the sort of monitoring you'll be doing to keep track of what your kids do online
Rules for communicating with people online, and in particular the risks of communicating with strangers
3. Establish a Technology Contract
Children thrive in an environment with clear expectations and rules. A contract allows you to outline specific rules for use of digital technology. This way, if your child breaks the rules, she can't protest that she didn't know or that you're being unfair. Be specific, and outline specific consequences if your child chooses to ignore the rules. We have one in our Back to School eBook if you want to utilize it or build off it!
4. Monitor Your Child's Usage
If you're not already monitoring your child's use of digital media, the new year is a great time to start. Try signing up for uKnowKids, which can keep you abreast of your child's social media and smartphone usage. But it's not enough to just use a program and forget about it. Check in with your child, periodically asking to see her social media pages and Internet usage history. Just as you'd ask about what your child did on an outing with her friends, you need to know what she's doing online.
5. Limit Digital Access
Technology can be a powerful tool, but it can also be a distraction from what really matters. There's no reason for your child to spend every waking second on her computer or smartphone, and doing so limits family time, opportunities to learn, and real social interaction. Establish clear limits on digital usage. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, advises parents that children should spend no more than an hour or two a day on digital pursuits, but reports that most children spend about seven hours a day online. Consider turning off your wireless connection or instituting an hour of family time each night.
6. Update Privacy Settings
Social media sites such as Facebook frequently change their default privacy settings, which means that previously private posts can suddenly become public. Take a few minutes to check your child's privacy settings – as well as your own – and ensure they're not inadvertently sharing their entire lives with the whole world.
7. Back Up Your Files
It's not particularly fun or glamorous, but backing up your files can save you lots of heartache. You can use a service such as Dropbox to keep access to your files in the digital cloud, or can transfer your documents and photos to a small flash drive. Computer problems are inevitable, and backing up your files saves you from the worst consequences of computer glitches.
8. Become Your Child's Friend
If you're not already friends with your child on social media sites, it's time to change that. This is one of the easiest ways to monitor your child's digital behavior because you'll receive updates when she posts a new status or photo. You'll gain plenty of insight into your child's life, and may gain new opportunities to talk with your child about topics that matter to him. However, friending your child is not a replacement for a parental intelligence system since users can limit what certain people see, which means your child could be hiding just about everything they post on Facebook from you.
9. Change Passwords
Changing your passwords every few months helps keep your data secure from hackers and other threats. Take a few minutes to change all of your passwords, and ask your child to do the same.
10. Teach Basic Computer Skills
It's never too early to begin teaching your child how to use the computer. Try spending time as a family learning how to navigate social media sites and reading up on the latest privacy and safety recommendations. You might even consider taking a joint class, or signing your child up for a class in Internet usage or computer programming.
With a new year comes new challenges and changes, but you can get off on the right foot if your data is secure and you know your child is safe online. These resolutions don't cost any money, and some only take a few minutes, but can serve as powerful steps to more family closeness and better digital safety.
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