Why You Should Have the Tech Talk With Your Kids — And Keep Having It
At Bark, we believe in open, honest communication between kids and parents when it comes to technology. And similar to the birds-and-the-bees talk, with the tech talk, there’s more to teach your kids than can be explained in a quick 15-minute chat. Instead, ongoing check-ins will reinforce healthy habits that will help them stay safe online and in real life. Having conversations about difficult subjects, while hard to start sometimes, are incredibly important to a child’s development.
The more you have these types of talks, the more comfortable your kids will feel coming to you with any questions or concerns they have about things they run into online. This post will give you ideas and prompts for age-appropriate tech talks you can have with your kids as they grow up.
Younger Kids (5 to 9): Navigating Screen Time
When your kids are in this age range, they most likely interact with your phone or a family tablet while you’re supervising, playing games, and watching videos. Curating the content they watch is fairly easy, especially with apps like YouTube Kids. Of course, the only way to be completely sure what they’re watching is 100% safe is to vet it yourself. But as many families have learned, inappropriate sexual content or frightening/violent things can pop up unexpectedly, even against the most vigilant parent’s best intentions. Tech talk topics to begin having at this age include:
- Ask them about their favorite show/game and why they like it.
- Explain that some videos/games are for older kids/adults, and that’s why the family uses parental controls.
- Tell them that not everything that happens on-screen is real life.
- Ask them to tell you when they see something weird or scary online — every single time.
- Discuss the importance of playing without screens.
Tweens (10 to 12): Learning the Tech Ropes
The average age that an American child gets their first phone is now 10.3 years old. It’s become a new rite of passage for kids — up there with learning to ride a bike — with many kids receiving their first devices after fifth-grade graduation. With a kid’s first phone comes an entirely new world to navigate and a new set of rules to understand. In addition to threats like cyberbullying and online predators, kids also have to learn how to conduct themselves online and learn how to create and maintain online relationships with family and friends.
Because of this, the 10-12 age range is a great time to get in on the ground floor with kids when it comes to smartphones and expectations. The lessons they learn now will serve them well for years to come. Tech talk topics with them during this time should center around concepts such as:
- Explain that not everyone is who they say they are online.
- Talk about what cyberbullying is and why it’s hurtful.
- Tell them to let you know if someone they don’t know messages them.
- Let them know there’s no need to ever share personal information online, such as addresses or the name of your school.
- Remind them that screen time is fun, but balancing it with physical activity is important.
Teens (13 to 18): Creating Safe Tech Habits
As kids near adulthood, there’s a delicate tightrope to be walked between giving them the independence they crave and making sure they’re safe. Because they’re more mature, teens spend more time on their own than tweens and younger kids. Phones also play an important part in their social lives as they communicate digitally to make plans and engage in social media. Because of this, there’s a lot to talk about with teens. The tech talks you have during this period will be many, and they’ll concern more serious subject matters. Important tech talks need to revolve around the following themes during the teen years:
- Emphasize that what they say and post online is permanent.
- Inform them that sexting can have serious consequences — some they may not have even considered.
- Ask if they’ve witnessed cyberbullying at school.
- Reinforce that if they’re feeling overwhelmed or sad, they can talk to you anytime.
- Tell them you’re interested in the latest slang (but promise not to use it yourself).
Bark’s award-winning service monitors text messages, emails, YouTube, and over two dozen social media platforms for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, online predators, adult content, depression, acts of violence, and suicidal ideation. Parents receive notifications when Bark detects something worrisome, and these alerts can spur just the sort of important dialogues your family needs. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial to get started.