Suburban Snapshots

Tips for Parents Whose Kids are Getting Devices This Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kids on devices: can't live with 'em, can't get a goddamn thing done without 'em. I am a technophile, I love social media, I love digital everything, I love communicating online almost as much as in person, and I didn't go to the mall once to shop for Christmas. My Internet experiences have been largely positive; I've made some true, wonderful friendships and learned really valuable things on the Web, all of which more than make up for the comments I've gotten on YouTube. I mean for real, YouTube commenters. Damn.


It's true that the Internet can be a scary place to let your kids loose, so I'm not even suggesting that a little bit. What I am hoping though, is that parents give their kids enough freedom to become smarter than we are, because technology is definitely going to evolve beyond what we can keep up with, and I want our kids to be right there with it. Someone's going to have to show us how to configure our Twitstasnaptimebook brain implants in 2045. Our children will eventually outsmart us in every way when it comes to electronics. I live online and still know this to be true.

If you've decided to connect your child to one of these magical voodoo instruments, here are some Apple-centric tips from a mom who's been employing the touch-screen babysitter for a few years.

Your Child's First iPad: Technical Parental Controls
  • We chose to set Anna's iPad up with its own email address under the Family Sharing controls. When we had her signed up using one of our iCloud addresses, she wasn't able to message or FaceTime us. The texts I get from her are usually a highlight of my day. If you choose to use an existing iCloud address or Apple user ID, your device will receive your child's interactions, which you may prefer (this is how Gwen discovered Gavin's romps with the nanny).
  • Choose an address that is generic enough to not reveal a child's age, name, gender, or location.
  • Don't tell your child what his or her address is, so you maintain control over who has it (I realize this will only work for a limited time because kids are crafty af.)
  • A reader suggested not telling your child what his or her iTunes password is. Anna knows hers because with Family Sharing, all downloads require permission from us. We get an iPhone notification telling us what she's requesting and locking her out until we approve or reject.
  • Allow only as much contact with the outside world as you're comfortable with. Anna doesn't have an Internet browser like Google Chrome, because that lets her navigate to unfiltered YouTube. She doesn't have the messaging app Kik either. YouTube Kids is about as off-leash as we go.
Your Child's First iPad: Actual Parental Guidance
  • GET A GOOD CASE. Totally unsponsored, this one has worked miracles. The one downside is that the stand only works horizontally.
  • Talk to your kids about what they shouldn't share across social media. The 4th grade girls mistakenly messaging Anna revealed a ton of personal information even after we replied telling them they had the wrong address.
  • Make a list with your child of approved contacts, then add them yourself to the address book.
  • Teach your kid a little etiquette, because we've ended far too many FaceTime conversations with "YOU DON'T JUST HANG UP ON GRANDMA WHEN YOU GET BORED."
  • Check at least daily the iMessage, FaceTime, and any other social app you've allowed your child to download.
  • We let Anna to use headphones as long as we're in glancing distance. She doesn't have access to adult content, but there are plenty of useless unboxing and haul videos that teach kids all the wrong lessons. There are also lots of really creative users, cooking shows and DIY tips she loves.
  • Set your rules for time allowed, or install an app to do it for you. I found this one, but don't use it. I prefer to repeat myself 500 times until I finally confiscate the whole gd thing.
If your kid is getting a device for Christmas, I hope this will help you be more at peace with it. It's our job as parents to expose them to the world beyond their tiny little selfish brains, and thankfully there are code developers who have our backs. If you have more tips please leave them in comments here or on the Facebook post. 

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