A parents’ responsibility to connect with their child also means the responsibility to help and guide that child the first time they connect to the Internet. Parents debate when it should happen, how it should happen, even if it should happen, but in modern society a child and a connected device often go hand-in-hand.
In an Amazon-backed US study from the international non-profit Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), 70% of parents reported feeling comfortable with their child having a connected device or toy. These numbers, reported by Kidscreen, may seem shocking, especially since it was conducted by parents with children ages 2 to 12.
“Research found that nearly half (45%) of parents of connected children indicated that their child has three or more of his/her own connected devices,” according to Connected Families: How Parents Think and Feel about Wearables, Toys and the Internet of Things.
But for the other half of parents debating the if, when and how of internet-connected devices, they are waiting as long as possible to introduce these gadgets. At least that is what mother of four, Jamie Cook shares, who reports for KSL on parenting topics and runs the Utah-based Wander and Scout instagram account.
“I’m pro phone and pro media technology, but I’m also doing the best I can at pushing it off.”
Why push it off? Cook explains:
“I’m doing it out of love, not out of restriction, not out of not trusting him, nothing like that.”
That is where the conversation takes an essential turn for parents, the conversation of trust, not for their kids, but for the trust that their child will be safe from strangers online. And according to the FOSI report, data privacy and safety guidelines are also “an essential piece of the puzzle.”
Kidscreen reported “the top concern for parents of connected children is the prospect of online hackers or criminals communicating with children or locating them with GPS tracking.” It is when data and safety guidelines are in place that parents’ comfort levels rise significantly.
Other digital parenting concerns? Device addiction.
When talking about her 12-year-old son, Cook explains, “I don’t want him to become addicted by this vice, because frankly his mom and dad are, and we’re grownups. We have been able to live the majority of our life without technology and yet we still find ourselves very drawn to these screens. So I want to do everything I can to push that off as long as possible.”
But the number of children exposed to devices is rising. The FOSI report showed 70% of parents children reported that their child has a tablet, while 36% indicated that their child has a cell or smartphone and more than half have access to one.
So with all these devices, how can parents solve that addiction problem? Anya Kamenetz, author of The Art of Screen Time, presents a number of solutions in her well-researched book, but says it takes a shift in how we look at the usefulness of these connected devices, and then shift the way we teach our kids to use them.
“It’s really a shift in perspective to say that if technology has a purpose in our lives as adults, that we want to share those purposes with our kids, because that way we’re going to model the most useful applications of tech.”
In the end, parents will need to decide the if and when based on their own needs and timeline, but the how should be done by setting an example of healthy device use and with the proper safety measures in place, to ensure your child’s protection.