After Buying a Device & Before Giving It to Kids — 2016 Update

iphone-6s

My new iPhone, purchased in early 2016.

Every 21st Century parent needs a holiday digital parenting checklist that describes the tasks to accomplish between purchasing a new digital device and watching a child gleefully unwrap it. This list gives parents a head start, identifying challenges, offering explanations, anticipating problems, and most importantly, setting the stage for responsible and respectful use of exciting but extraordinarily powerful devices.

The time adults spend preparing for new devices that enter a family’s life is well spent and spending that time up front  may well prevent a huge time drain later on after a your child experiences a connected world problem. Parents are simultaneously guides, limits setters, and lifeguards, whether or not they know as much about digital life as their children.

The MediaTechParenting 2016
         Digital Parents’ Holiday and Beyond Checklist        


  1. Open the digital device, set it up and then play around enough to become
    A few things before getting started with any new device.

    Do a few things before getting started with any new device.

    familiar. You don’t need to know everything — your child will discover lots more fairly quickly — but as a parent you need to know basic information about the item you are giving to your child.

  2. As an alternative ask a trusted adult friend to help you set it up — or at least watch and take notes.
  3. Most devices have restrictions that can be set and locked. If you are purchasing one of the wonderful robots or communication devices, that connect a child to the Internet, be sure to think about how much personal information your child needs to provide, or more importantly, how to control what data your child provides to ensure the most privacy possible.
  4. Consider ownership — especially if a child is receiving a phone.. Many kids believe that the device — phone, robot, interactive device —  is theirs to use however they choose. What will you tell your child about ultimate decision-making?
  5. How will you set up app purchasing? Will you have an account with a password so that your child must check in when purchasing an app or will your child be able to do it independently? If you child has a app-purchasing account from a school device, how will you keep an eye on it?
  6. Look over the web resources for digital device agreements and contracts, choose one that works for you and your family members, and wrap it with the present. Take the time to read together and sign. Expect, however, to make regular revisions and even encourage your child to collaborate and suggest updates. Check out my Rules-of-the-Digital-Road blog post.
  7. Talk with your child about the expectations you have vis-a-via using the phone to communicate, the camera to take pictures, the robot to connect to the Internet, or the apps to share photos, videos and chats. The instantaneous nature of connected life means that your child — most of the way through the teen years — makes sudden, potentially public decisions at a time in life when impulse control is only gradually developing.
  8. Consider when and where family members will charge devices. Charging devices in bedrooms is unwise. Read a post at the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) about promoting sleep and getting media devices out of kids bedrooms.reclaiming conversations
  9. Decide where and when devices will be used and not used in your family. Our conversation skills are weakening in the 21st Century, so be sure that your family has plenty of time for interesting face-to-face conversations. Read Sherry Turkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation or check out my October 2015  blog post that includes some of the reviews for Turkle’s book.
  10. Plan to talk about anonymity — before your child leaves the house with the device. It’s critical for young people to understanding that anonymity, in truth, does not really exist even though it sometimes feels like it does. Read Most Teens Don’t Use Anonymous Apps: Advice for Those Who Do over at ConnectSafely.org.
  11. Know what digital knowledge your child should possess and at what age various concepts should be understood before using a digital device. Check out Digital Literacy 101 For Kids, a post that describes the connected-world information that children should master before receiving a digital device.
  12. Think about how you model for and mentor your child. Do you use the mobile phone in the car? Do you ask your child to wait when you are responding to an email or text? Do you use a phone at a family meal? Do you use one at a child’s assembly presentation or athletic event? Children are more likely to imitate what we do rather than what we say. After all your goal is to promote health and wellness for everyone in your family, and digital wellness is one part of that.

21 C Parenting ConcernsDigital parenting is a challenge. Many of us mentor and guide our 21st Century children on issues and topics we wish we knew more about (or at least as much as the kids do) but according to a recent study commissioned by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), parents report that they are feeling more and more confident about managing digital kids when they use technology. Moreover, on the whole, parents worry less and feel more  positive about the various ways that technology affects their children.

What’s important to remember anytime you do not feel quite sure of yourself is that while our understanding about any specific device may ice minimal, we know exactly how we what our children to mature and grow into thoughtful and responsive citizens.

“We have to parent in the digital world. We can’t just say, ‘I don’t get it.’ “
Michael Rich, MD, Center on Child & Media Health, Boston Children’s Hospital

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