Digital diligence a must when it comes to kids’ devices
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 7:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 7:19 p.m.
Literally millions of kids will nestle under their blankets Christmas Eve with dashing visions of sugarplums and Justin Bieber before walking up the next day to package after package of devices that will undoubtedly stamp their membership into our connected generation.
If you don't believe me, you clearly slept in on Black Friday and probably still watch a television with rabbit ears.
What you missed was a total iPallooza of shoppers filling buggies up with electronics. Why? Because tablets, laptops and smartphones are the beginning and end of the "list" these days. Anything else is mere stocking-stuffing material.
As sophisticated as it all might sound, there are real dangers to plugging our children into the "matrix" of the Internet. Tablets might be fun for little Michael to play Angry Birds on, but unless you pay close attention, there are in-game links back to promo YouTube videos where it can quickly go from birds and pigs to birds and bees, and your little boy is just clicks away from graphic videos where he can learn how to convert himself to little Michelle. This is a true story straight from my living room.
While the web is a marvelous bastion of informational freedom where kids can thrive, it is also a rabbit hole into a dark and sinister world where perverts are arranging dates with your unsuspecting pre-teen daughter in the innocent but unprotected land of disneychannel.com forums. Once again, true story straight from my living room.
All stopped in the name of diligence, but scary nonetheless.
Before you go and plop down a few hundred bucks and sign on the dotted line for a data pool, you might be best served to look where they are venturing with your current devices. I would bet my last gig of hard drive space that your little ones are already getting their dirty little fingers on your iDevices as much as possible. That said, are you going back into the history and tracing their steps?
Are you Facebook "friends?" Do you know how to track who they call and text and when? What kinds of pictures are flowing in and out of your home network? These are just a few of the questions that parents of the connected generation must ask.
Creepy? Yep. Overbearing? Yes sir. Violation of privacy? You betcha. Unfettered Internet access is akin to venturing out at night without a parent.
This year, instead of purchasing great offerings from Google, Apple and Microsoft in the mobile device arena, I am looking at a little known family-friendly tablet called the Nabi. Beyond the great $129 Black Friday deal, this is a solid, Android-powered, 7-inch tablet that runs the Ice Cream Sandwich OS. What makes this device unique is its proprietary software that allows kids access to play games, watch movies, read books and navigate the web but in a way that allows parents direct control of who, what, where, when, how and why.
It's like a webcam pointed at the playground, and you're only a few clicks away from loosening or tightening the leash. Just to make it fun are apps like "chores" that allow you a credit-based reward system that lets kids buy approved games and apps after finishing what you can never get them to do.
When they actually go to bed, you can login to the parent side and operate a fully functional tablet. It allows mom and dad to do whatever they might on another tablet.
Other devices like this exist, as do a plethora of apps that will help filter content. None are really that good. Kids are smart and can always find ways to unlock backdoors. The same curiosity that captures us does the same for them. We must be focused, relentless and creative in controlling clicks. The best offense is a great defense.
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