Grandparents: Tips for Tackling Technology
Each day, grandparents of all ages and from all ethnic and socio-economic groups become the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. The reasons for this change in caregiver status vary from family to family, but all grandparent caregivers have one thing in common–they want to provide a stable, loving home for their grandchildren.
Most already know their grandchildren’s world is a much different place than their own children’s world only a few decades ago. Much of this change can be attributed to the explosion of technology. With all of it’s benefits, it’s important to remember that technology also carries some potential dangers for children of any age.
It is easy to lose track of how much time children spend sitting in front of a screen, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new guidelines regarding screen time for children. The new recommendations encourage consistent limits on technology and media, and as always, ongoing communication about boundaries and online safety and respect for others is also a great idea.
For children who may have experienced unlimited screen time before coming to your home, new boundaries may be difficult to digest. You may find it helpful to start by creating media free times like mealtimes and media free zones like bedrooms. Work with your grandchildren to create a media plan that allows them access to technology for school work and research as well as gaming and socializing as is appropriate for their age, maturity level and background.
Video games, apps, movies and television shows have rating systems. Sites like Common Sense Media offer suggested age ranges along with ratings on multiple aspects of games, movies, apps, website and television shows. Increase your awareness of the games or television shows that interest your grandchild by watching as they play, and by moving televisions and other screens to public rooms where you can occasionally monitor content.
Tech to know
If your grandchildren use the Internet for school projects, to play games, or just to answer all those questions they have, make Google’s Safe Search for Kids your home page. This search tool allows your grandchildren to harness the power of Google with a protective filter. Many games and phones also have privacy settings that can be set to protect children and youth. Find a friend who is good with technology or visit a local cell phone store to get help putting those protections in place.
While privacy settings are a great defense, you also must talk to your grandchild about the dangers of interacting with people online that he or she does not know in person. Remind your grandchild to never give out personal information or agree to meet with anyone they met online. Know who they play with and talk to online.
Privacy vs. Safety
Finally, don’t be afraid to check in on your grandchildren’s electronic life often. Make sure your grandchildren know you’ll be checking text messages and social media often. In a recent seminar hosted by Whole Child Initiative, Richard Guerry, founder and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cellphone Communication (IROC2), reminded parents and children to expect anything they put on an electronic device to be public and permanent. If they are sharing it online for the world to see, they shouldn’t be embarrassed for you to see it.
Technology for Good
It’s easy to just want to scrap technology all together after all these warnings. Although the dangers certainly exist, technology offers many benefits as well. Technology also offers educational purposes from research to learning games. And let’s not forget all those free e-books from your local library. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, befriend someone who has more experience with technology than you do, or even to play alongside your grandchildren.
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