Tips for managing kids’ technology consumption

One of the biggest challenges virtually all parents face today is managing their children’s technology consumption. Technology has become our saving grace and nemesis—at the same time. Here are some tips and suggestions I’ve put together:

  • Watch out for in-app purchases: It’s very easy for kids to rack up in-app purchases—without realizing the charges are real versus “money” earned in certain games. These unexpected costs can be managed through the device’s settings.
  • Play before they do: It’s easy to rely on a rating for determining app and game appropriateness for our kids. But, ratings are only a guideline. It’s always a good idea to spend some time playing with an app or game before letting your child download it.
  • Download before you go:  Most TV providers offer customers a free app that lets them take their shows on the go. Downloading On Demand or DVR-recorded content to a mobile device helps control how much video is consumed without racking up data charges.
  • Look for WiFi:  Beyond free WiFi at obvious places, some internet providers, such as Xfinity, offer free hotspots in many popular places.
  • Use technology to set parameters:  There are a number of apps and devices (some free, some available for purchase) to help parents monitor and control WiFi access and usage. Comcast’s service, xFi, which is FREE to our customers, lets parents schedule WiFi access times for individual devices, such as pausing access during bedtime.
  • Take back dinner time:  Similarly, the xFi app gives customers the ability to pause all devices in the house so families can engage with each other over dinner.
  • Get creative with other ways to keep kids busy during travel:  There’s nothing wrong with some good, old-fashioned road trip games. We might be surprised how much our kids enjoy the License Plate Game or 20 Questions – especially when parents join in.

Podcast Makers Hook Pint-Size Listeners

According to a the Wall Street Journal article, audio producers are attracting the next generation of fans with programs like ‘Chompers’—a twice-daily, two-minute show that coincides with teeth-brushing time. Children today don’t typically have direct access to podcasts—they often tune in on their parents’ phones instead—but industry watchers believe that smart speakers will help change that.

Industry watchers believe that smart speakers will help make podcasts a larger part of children’s media consumption.

Teachers, parents divided on technology

There is a wide gap between teachers and parents concerning technology, with teachers saying it has harmed students’ mental and physical health, according to a majority of educators participating in a recent Gallup survey. Parents surveyed were more likely to say that technology helps support students’ mental and physical health.

Check out this Washington Post article for more.

Apple Debuts New Page to Help Parents With Screen-Time Concerns

From the CNN piece:

The new “Families” page — located at — is an attempt to help parents understand and use all the features that are already floating around on Apple devices. Many parents may not know that they have the power to track their children’s location, monitor and limit their purchases, and filter what content they can see on their devices.

It also covers privacy, health related settings like sleep mode, sharing between family members, and the use of Apple devices in education.

apple families page

The company also updated its support page for parental controls.

Why Your Kids Need You To Unplug (At Least a Little Bit)

Ninety-eight percent of children under the age of 8 have access to a mobile device at home, and all that time connected can have a negative impact on them. Kids spend a lot of time in front of screens – and need to unplug sometimes, writes Angela Roe in this MediaShift piece. She recommends making the upcoming National Day of Unplugging a family affair.

Your Kid’s Phone Is Not Like a Cigarette

Interesting editorial in today’s NY Times.  Here’s an excerpt:

A new national ad campaign, “Truth About Tech,” is designed to expose the ways that platforms like YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook are harmful to children and to “protect young minds from digital manipulation and exploitation.”

Organized by the nonprofits Common Sense and the Center for Humane Technology, it has been compared by its organizers to the “Truth” anti-tobacco campaign, which, beginning in 1999, rolled out ads — including images of body bags placed outside a major tobacco company to represent the number of people killed by tobacco each day — that are credited with helping to slash teenage smoking rates.

“Think of it like the Truth campaign for cigarettes. If you remember the 1990s TV ads, it was not saying, ‘Hey, this is going to have this bad health consequences for you if you smoke,’” Tristan Harris, the founder and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, said in a February interview about the campaign with “The Truth campaign was about telling you the truth about how they design it deliberately to be addictive.”

But an anti-tobacco campaign is not an ideal model for the effort to make technology safer for children. Because while there’s plenty of concern about overuse of technology among young people, the actual evidence of addictiveness and harm is much more complex than it was in the case of cigarettes.