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Tech Gifts Bring Teachable Moments

Nov 23, 2015 04:53AM ● Published by Family Features

(Family Features) From games to smart phones and devices, you’d be hard-pressed to find a holiday wish list that doesn’t include at least one new tech device. These gifts provide kids with the tools to connect with friends, and empower them to learn and explore; while also presenting an opportunity for parents to start a conversation on how to live safely in an increasingly digital world.

Technology access starts as early as 6 years old in many families, according to a recent survey by LifeLock, an industry leader in identity theft protection. At this young age, a whopping 74 percent of children have access to laptops/desktops. The rate of technology use increases from there – by the time kids hit their mid-teens, 80 percent have a smartphone.

“The holidays are a great time to gift a child their first device, but parents are trying to find the balance between the opportunity to build friendships, learn and have fun using technology, and the need to stay safe and develop healthy lifestyles,” said Paige Hanson, Educational Programs Senior Manager with LifeLock.

As technology increasingly plays a larger presence in our lives, parents recognize the need to help their kids live a balanced life online and offline. Four out of five parents surveyed reported having technology agreements with their children that define areas such as safety and privacy, screen time, apps and downloads and respectful behavior. However, the overwhelming majority (79 percent) relies on verbal versus written agreements with varying degrees of effectiveness. As you think about gifting your kid a device this holiday season, it is also a good time to establish, or update, the ground rules you’d like to have as a family, and discover new resources that can help create a positive conversation.

One such resource is “The Smart Talk.” LifeLock and National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association, recently teamed up to create this free digital tool which is designed as an interactive experience between parent and child, guiding families through a series of questions and conversations. After agreeing on healthy limits, a personalized family agreement can be stored on the computer or printed out and posted in a high-traffic home area – like your fridge! By doing this, it will help serve as a daily reminder for the whole family to follow the agreed upon guidelines.

“We need to help the next generation establish safe behaviors at an earlier age, and give parents a roadmap to set ground rules that strike a better, healthier balance,” said Hanson.

It is also a good exercise to remind parents that they also should practice healthy online habits and safeguard their family’s identities.

“Always think before you post to your social networks,” said Hanson. “While posting a picture of your family seems harmless enough, you could be opening yourself to identity theft. Each photo and status update also creates your child’s first digital footprint, especially when they are too young to be online themselves.”

“When it comes to forms – extracurricular, doctors’ records and more – don’t be afraid to ask what personal information is actually needed by the organization. Many times they just need a name and maybe a birthdate, but not your kids’ Social Security Number,” concluded Hanson.

Start the conversation by visiting thesmarttalk.org to begin setting ground rules, learn best practices and protect your children’s safety and security when using technology and living in today’s always connect world.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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