12 Hacks to Help Manage Kids’ Technology

How to keep up with your kids’ technology? There may not always be an app for that, but there are techie tricks to keep your kids protected in the veritable device-storm we’re all experiencing.

Check out these 12 Tech Hacks that are easy enough for parents to use yet sophisticated enough to keep up with the kids!

MAKE YOUTUBE MORE KID-FRIENDLY.

YouTube’s Safety Mode hides “most” age-inappropriate videos and (bonus) enables safe search in Google. At the bottom of the YouTube screen, click the box that says “Safety: Off” until it says On.

TAME GAMES.

The popular game network Steam offers lots of kid-friendly games, but it also sells plenty of games inappropriate for kids. With Steam Family Options, you can help kids find the games that will work for them.

GET HIGH-QUALITY, LOW-COST KIDS’ SHOWS WITHOUT CABLE.

Online streaming video services such as Hulu Plus and Netflix are offering high-quality, original kids’ shows. Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime offers a safe place for kids’ books, videos and apps.  Advantages of streaming: fewer commercials and programs don’t run continuously so kids are more likely to “watch just one.”

Help kids focus on one app at a time.

iOS offers Apple’s Guided Access feature (found in Settings/General/Accessibility) to temporarily restrict your device to a single app. To keep kids from reprogramming the whole thing, Android tablets feature a restricted user profile where you can create an environment for each family member.

Turn off gore in video games.

Some video games (for kids and adults alike) can be a bit “rough.” More and more popular games (Starcraft, Call of Duty, etc.) give you an option to tone down the violence, blood and general gore. Check your kids’ games to see if this feature is offered.

Be present (and still get work done).

Designate VIPs in your email or phone contacts lists, and you won’t be disturbed until they—and only they—contact you. In iOS you can create a VIP setting that notifies you of important emails. Android apps such as My VIP Calls only let through calls from specific people (such as your child or boss depending upon where you are at the moment).

Get serious about passwords.

Kids are accumulating more and more passwords for school, services, social sites and even their devices— and it’s easy to forget, misplace or share them by accident. With increasing large-scale data attacks targeting log-in information, it’s vital to protect the confidentiality and security of your information. Password managers not only generate passwords and keep them secure, they can help reinforce the importance of safeguarding your private information. A couple to try: LastPass, 1Password.

Help your kid manage screen time.

Don’t we wish our kids came with a built-in off switch (aka self control)? But knowing when enough is enough is an essential digital-age skill. Software timers such as Timers4Me and Time Timer count down the time you’ve set. Kids can learn to take responsibility for managing their own screen time.

Get kids reading—for free.

Kids are reading less than ever! To reverse that trend, look for digital books to appeal to our plugged–in kids. OverDrive is a way to connect with local libraries’ FREE digital titles. A few websites offer free ebooks including Project Gutenberg and the Open Library.

BOOST your privacy.

Do you know where all those cookies land? These cookies don’t expand your hips, they shrink your privacy. Cookies are data trackers deposited on your computer by websites, and these sites don’t always make it clear what they’re doing with your data. Just deleting your browser history isn’t good enough. You need to fine–tune the privacy settings on your browser. For Chrome and for Safari.

FIND YOUR PHONE—AND, EVEN BETTER, YOUR CHILD.

The free Find my Phone app for iOS or Android is a no-brainer to locate a lost device. But it also can help you check up on your child, so long as he or she is attached to the phone (and when aren’t they after a certain age?).

Master your home network.

The Internet security company OpenDNS offers a download that lets you set up parental controls on your home network. The service is free, but you have to make a change to your wireless router (it’s daunting but has directions—maybe let the kids help, then quickly change the password!). This filtering service is nearly impossible for kids to defeat.  Score one for parents!

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Washington FAMILY Staff

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