Friday, January 2, 2009

What Did Santa Deliver to Your House? Any Techno Gadgets?

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Christmas is recently passed, and my magic Christmas ball tells me there were many good little boys and girls who received the latest techno gadgets. What I did not see in that ball was an elf assigned to supervise the use of these new toys. Oh, my.

Supervising can be such a tricky game, especially if little Johnny knows more about the new gadget than you! But never fear because there are many ways to monitor and protect your children while giving them the perfect gift and providing the freedom to explore and learn.

Executive Director Parry Aftab from tells us, “Kids can walk around now with more Internet technology right in their backpack. There’s Xbox, personal gaming systems, cell phones. They are connected to the Internet everywhere they go, with everything they touch.”

Neither Parry nor I will ever tell you not to buy the new gadgets for your kids. We believe our children need to master ever-changing new technologies. Actually, denying them access might impact their ability to do well in school or make a living in their Century of Technology.

So if Santa does drop all the latest toys down your chimney, consider these tips to keep your techno-wizard safe:

Tip #1: Keep the computer and technology devices in a central area of the home. Making such rules for the gaming devices, Xbox or cell phones may be more problematic, but establishing ground rules about how, when and where all gadgets will be used is key. In our home the computer and Xbox are in the den and living room, respectively, and there are not even TVs in bedrooms.

Tip #2: Have your children sign an agreement with you about your expectations and the approved uses of the gadget. Working through an agreement together will provide an opportunity for you to talk about your concerns. Make the time to touch on your values while including the type of messages and pictures your children can post, sites they can visit and people whom they can contact. Make it a priority to hold these conversations often.

Tip #3: Use your Internet Service Provider parental control features, especially for the younger kids. Also consider purchasing monitoring software. Or better yet, try to get parental monitoring software for Internet use for free. From December 25th until January 1st Pandora is giving away 50,000 copies. To find out details visit:

Reasonably priced, new and improved parental control features are available to monitor cell phones. Radar, a stand-alone monitoring system, is excellent. The software will monitor in- and out-going messages, text messages, images and Internet activity. Radar is reasonable, too. For one child or phone, it is only $10 per month and for three phones, the price is under $15. When we upgrade Addy’s phone to Internet, we’ll be using Radar so that we have a means to track harassment or inappropriate contact. However, if a trust issue ever occurs, she’ll know we have the system in place, and, more importantly, she’ll know that we will use it.

Tip #4: Go to bed early tonight. Your techno savvy kids love to get up early on Christmas morning. At least my little wizard always has!

The Alert Parent, , can be nearly as helpful as a Christmas elf in supervising all the fun new ways of technological interaction. The website has examples of user agreements for computers and cell phones. It provides lists and prices for parental monitoring software. Check The Alert Parent out often for new hints about keeping up with your 21st Century Child.

Allyn Evans
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