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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.

Keeping up with the kids

2/21/2013 4:26:00 PM



I used to regard myself as one of those tech-savvy moms. You know the type – someone who knew how to set up a home network, and was always up-to-date with the latest hardware and software. I even had my kids’ tech habits under control. There was a strict no-tech-before-homework rule, parental controls on all the computers, and a total of three hours a week set aside for video games. It worked well for a while…and then everything went mobile!

The lightning-fast transition to mobile technology has left me – and I’m sure a lot of other moms – on the back foot. Our perfectly controlled worlds of scheduled tech time and filtered content have been replaced by an anytime, anywhere mash up of smartphones, tablets and connected gaming devices.

So what is a concerned parent supposed to do? Well, one thing it has taught me is to focus more on being a mentor rather than a gatekeeper. If there is no way to block everything out, then the challenge is to teach good decision-making; to turn our kids into their own gatekeepers. Easier said than done.

Take the case of mobile social networking. My daughter’s first smartphone roughly coincided with the time we let her have a Facebook account. Luckily, I was able to make a deal where all e-mail notifications came to me, and almost 18 months and 500 friends later, she seems to have avoided any serious mishaps.

But like I say, things move fast in the world of technology. Soon after she got comfortable with Facebook, she wanted a Twitter account, and then Instagram. Then it was cool to SnapChat. Then video-sharing came along with Keek and now Vine. None of these social networks and messaging tools have any controls worth talking about, although many of them are clearly aimed at a younger audience.

For parents, mobile technology has become a game of Whack-A-Mole, as we desperately try to keep up with all the various apps and communication platforms that are currently in vogue. And for every app that we think we understand, there are five more that we have yet to learn about. The best we can do is keep our eyes and ears open and hope that those lessons on exercising good judgment found a receptive audience.

While I still think of myself as a tech-savvy mom, I know my limitations. It’s not about knowing the hardware anymore; it’s more about keeping an open dialogue.


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