Tag Archives: internet safety

Summertime technology: one dad’s advice. 

netsafe-family-nightBy Chris O’Brien President, NetSafe Family

School’s out for the summer!  Riding bikes, skinned knees, climbing trees, what could be better?  Wait a minute, something is missing…. Yes how can we forget those other summertime activities; video games, YouTube, chat groups, surfing the web, streaming movies……, all part of the potential “screen time” overloading we parents will face this summer.

Here’s the question: is all this tech and screen time an okay way for kids to make it through the summertime doldrums?  If you are looking for basic guidelines, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends setting time limits:

• Children 18 months or younger: no screen time.
• Children 2-5 years: no more than 1 hour a day of supervised screen time.
• Children 6 years and up: use your best judgment but not more than 2 hours a day.

Why the limits?  Studies on excessive entertainment-based screen time show that conditions like childhood depression, obesity, trouble sleeping, and introverted behavior are often linked to too much screen time.  Experts like, Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State have shown that too much screen time is harming the overall mental health of our children.  Note: the average teenage boy spends nearly 8 hours looking at a screen daily (not including homework).

The good news is we have options that don’t include “accidentally” dropping your child’s smartphone into the ocean.  Tech solutions can be very helpful in limiting screen time and protecting your children from other kinds of online dangers; here are some examples of what we typically recommend to our clients:

• Make sure your home Wi-Fi and internet network is secure and protected.
• Set up content blocking (blacklisting) software on the network, this will block inappropriate content such as graphic violence, illegal behavior, and adult content from your child’s device.
• Configure home internet access time controls, (apple computers have a daily limit program that you can set up, we have an app that controls time limits by user).
• When you go to bed, shut off the internet.
• Set up the parental controls on all of your child’s devices.

On the non-tech side, and this is the hard part, make and stick to family “Techtime” RULES.  Personally, I have had some success using a “Summer Techtime” agreement with my children, which includes statements like:

• This device belongs to my parents, I get to use it as a privilege.
• I will listen to my parents and put down my device when asked.
• There will be no screen time 1 hour before bed, and all devices will be out of my room for bedtime.
• I will tell my parents when I encounter cyberbullying, violence, or other media content that makes me feel uncomfortable while at home or at a friend’s house.
• I (Parent) will put my phone down when I am home and by no means will I bring it to the dinner table…..again… 😊

You get the point, it is all about communication and giving your child responsibility not only for the device but for how it is being used.  One hero parent I know actually covers all these bases at once by using tech to start family communication with a “favorite video of the week” hour.  You can almost hear all the ooh’s, aah’s, OMG’s, and laughs.

Good luck, and as we head into summer, my wish is for several skinned knees, lots of games of Monopoly, and no early onset carpal tunnel cases!

Netsafe-Family-Logo-3.3Chris O’Brien is president of NetSafe Family, a internet safety company featuring technology rated “Best in Class” by the Wall Street Journal. Kidz Buzz Blog readers receive a special offer when you contact NetSafe Family and mention Kidz Central Station.

How to Talk to Your Kids about Internet Safety


Internet safety is a complicated and multifaceted issue, in part because a family’s culture and outlook on technology must be considered. As such, there is not necessarily a “one size fits all” method to raise your children with technology and the Internet.

It is important to view the Internet as a tool—in fact, picture a chainsaw. Like any tool you will want to set clear expectations and teach the user safety measures, as well as skills for handling the tool efficiently, and discuss hypothetical situations for what to do if there is an accident or emergency. The same can be said for the Internet and your children. Unlike a chainsaw, however, there is no operations manual for the Internet, so consider the guidelines below as you map out your family’s personal safety manual:

Parenting has not changed. Technology, particularly the Internet, has changed our lives, but it has not necessarily changed the rules of parental engagement! The world may be new, but the problems are not.

Content matters. Setting clear expectations for your child’s Internet use is a necessity. If your child were to play in the neighborhood, you would want to know who they are meeting, where they are going, what they plan to do, and when they will return home. Having that information allows you to set more targeted boundaries. Similarly, becoming more familiar with your child’s Internet use is an important hurdle to overcome.

Learn from each other. As you teach your children how to use the Internet, it will also be your responsibility to learn from them about the ways in which they use it and about dangers they may encounter.

Co-engagement counts. For younger children, be prepared to monitor their use much more closely and use parental controls. Plan to use the Internet together with your young child. I recommend “saddling up” to children when they are engaged in a game or video and to simply participate with them—what better way to learn together? As youth develop through their teenage years, foster more exploration and independence with continued monitoring and coaching of appropriate use.

Role modeling is critical. Take a moment to consider the ways you and other caregivers use technology. Some adults use their phones during dinnertime, and others might use devices in bed before going to sleep. Make sure to talk with other caregivers to establish consistent expectations for what you want to model to your children.

Create tech-free zones. Consider creating tech-free times of day for the whole family! Dinnertime and bedtime are good places to start. Remember that if you frequently use devices during such times you will be hard-pressed to enforce such tech-free zones for your children. Work with other caregivers to make this expectation clear and consistent.

It’s OK for your child to be online. In many ways, the Internet is like a diet. Your children live in a world of screens, and the Internet will only become more integrated into everything they do. Your job is to teach them how to have a balanced diet of educational, social, and entertainment content.

Kids will be kids. There will be missteps, but you must use small errors as teachable moments. Continue to discuss hypotheticals with them; what would you do if . . . ? Be supportive and empathetic and help your child learn from their mistakes.

Most importantly, accept that you are ready to tackle this challenge. Be there with them from the beginning and be ready to learn together as you all navigate the digital landscape as a family.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Douglas M. Brodman, PhD, is a clinical instructor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center. He provides clinical intervention and consultation to families and youth struggling from emotional and disruptive behavioral disorders.