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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Parenting in the digital age

11/27/2012 7:31:00 AM

As my daughter navigates her way through middle school, I am always looking to see which of her friends and classmates are more advanced when it comes to the use of technology, and which families are trying to delay the inevitable. While some parents insist that smartphones and Facebook can wait, others are more obliging, resulting in an interesting mix of haves and have-nots when it comes to the trappings of the digital age.

But despite the efforts of the “technology-can-wait” parents, it has become increasingly difficult to isolate kids from connected devices; if they don’t interact with smartphones and tablets at home, then they will almost certainly be exposed to them at parties and play dates.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for parents to have a plan when it comes to technology. And I’m not talking about those rules that you post on the pinboard in the kitchen. Instead, I am referring to an approach that will allow your kids to become familiar with technology while still having an appreciation for both the benefits and the risks.

Here are a few suggestions for your digital plan:

Keep learning
Being an involved parent today means having a working knowledge of Facebook, Instagram and all the other social networking tools that your kids will be using. It also means knowing which devices are connected to the Internet and which ones your child will use to communicate with friends. Your kids will be using technology every day of their lives and it’s essential that you are able to keep pace with them until they reach a level of maturity that makes them less vulnerable.

Face-to-face relationships are important
Social networking, texting, Snap Chatting and all the other communication tools at the disposal of kids are no substitute for face-to-face relationships. In a world where everyone has 500 Facebook “friends,” real relationships matter more than ever. Accept the role of technology in your kids' lives, but encourage them to spend face time with family and friends.

Be an occasional snoop
Privacy is great – but not when it compromises safety. Be aware of your kids' technology use. Keep family computers in a public place and talk with them about Internet safety, cyber bullying and sexting. Use technology to communicate with them on their own terms, so you have an idea of how they utilize the various platforms at their disposal.

Set a good example
Is your smartphone always glued to your hand? Do you respond to emails and texts anytime, anyplace – even at mealtimes? If so, don't be surprised if your kids adopt the same approach and end up ignoring the family in the process. When it comes to technology, the first rule for every parent should be set a good example.

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