By Ashley Alt
Raising kids today, who now have more access than ever before to online information, seems next to impossible to protect them from viewing inappropriate content and monitoring their social media activity.
The amount of digital content available to us is overwhelming, and for parents, can often lead to anxiety about what their child is watching when they aren’t looking, what websites they are exposed to, and who they are talking to behind the many screens at their disposal.
Ensuring that your kids are using the Internet safely and responsibly is not an easy task, but there are ways it can be done.
The topic hits home for a lot of parents today, especially those who are still at work when their kids get home from school. Most parents would agree that restricting your children’s access to the Internet isn’t an unfair policy, but simply good parenting. So how can parents monitor their child’s online usage?
A new and personalized service recently launched by Comcast gives customers control over Wi-Fi from any device. Xfinity xFi, which provides a simple digital dashboard for customers to see what devices are connected in their home network, allows parents to set parental controls on any device, and can even pause Wi-Fi access during dinner or bedtime. xFi gives customers unprecedented visibility and control over the most important technologies in their home.
According to a Comcast press release announcing the new feature, 86 percent of in-home broadband use will travel over Wi-Fi, and by 2020, Americans will have an average of 50 Wi-Fi connected devices in their homes.
With this unsurmountable level of Wi-Fi usage and connected device ownership, xFi simplifies the home network experience and provides many consumer benefits, including “Find My Password,” which enables you to view and modify Wi-Fi names and passwords, “Easy-To-Use Tools,” allowing you to set parental controls and bedtime schedules for any family member on the home Wi-Fi network, “Cloud Management,” giving you the ability to see and control your home Wi-Fi network from anywhere, and “Pause With A Tap,” so you can instantly pause Wi-Fi access by user or device.
What are some other, perhaps more natural, ways a parent can take control of their children’s electronic devices?
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Some set a time limit for usage, telling their kids they need to hand over all iPads, laptops and cellphones by 8 pm each night. Some enforce a “no phones at the dinner table” rule.
From gradual transitions to replacement activities, boundaries should be set. This parent of two teenage boys implements a tracking system for iOS messaging. When they are texting their friends at home, they are allotted 10 back and forth messages, and when that is up, the boys have to put the phones down to give their mother an update from their day. So if they want to continue texting, they need to keep pausing to keep mom in the loop with what’s going on at school or with sports.
“It might sound silly, but it works for us,” Jill Mimer says. “And to be honest, it is actually a lot of fun,” she continued. “Any way I can get my boys to communicate directly with me, without a frustrating digital distraction, I take it.”
You can take other proactive approaches to ensure your kids or teenagers know the seriousness of the issue. Set up your computer in a central, open location, like the living room, so Internet use can be supervised. Create a family agreement for Internet use that includes hours of use, what sites can be accessed and what sites are off-limits.
Something as simple as sitting down with your kids and having a conversation about what kinds of blog sites or social media outlets they enjoy can give parents better insight and sense of relief when they aren’t physically around.
Kimberly Young, a psychologist who focuses on Internet addiction, believes that “good old-fashioned parenting” is the answer in keeping our youth on the right track, commenting that she has seen kids as young as two years old playing games on dad’s phone.
In addition to limiting screen time, parents, while still the ones in charge, also need to take their own advice to illustrate the importance of being present. For example, if you set a “no bringing phones to church” rule, you, as the parent, need to abide by that as well.
For those of you ready to take control of your kids’ technology overload habits, the xFi experience can be controlled through a mobile app, website or TV with the X1 voice remote. To get started, all customers need to do is visit www.xfinity.com/myxfi or download the xFi app.
In the meantime, think up a creative strategy like Mimer’s to not only unglue your children from Instagram, but to turn the grabbing phone habit into a family game.