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New tools help parents monitor kids' online activities


Did you know 70% of teens use smartphones, 80% of parents aren’t sure how to monitor their child’s online activities and 46% of teens said they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were paying more attention? These are the stats that author and technology guru Matt McKee has studied and written about in his latest book Parent Chat: The Technology Talk for Every Family.

Although only 98 pages, Parent Chat is packed with info to help parents tackle the issue of technology and their teen.Parent Chat hopes to teach parents what questions to ask, what matters most, and how to combat the fear that comes with their children knowing more about technology than they do.

In addition to Parent Chat, McKee has partnered with Disney on a new product called Circle.

Circle is a tool that helps parents stay informed about their kids’ online activities and lets parents limit screen time on every device in the home, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and gaming consoles. Circle gives parents the ability to filter content, set a bedtime for devices and even completely pause the Internet. Each user’s profile and settings can be completely customized based on age and parents’ preferences.

We had the opportunity to talk with McKee about his new book and product.

What has been the reaction to the Circle with Disney product?

The mindset going into the device is different for parents and kids. Both are going into this asking different questions, parents asking if this device is effective, along with feasible. The kids more so just ask what it does. Kids have a lot more access now. The number one thing is to ask the child what they are doing/looking at.

You mentioned that parents are afraid of technology, how can they bridge the gap with their kids?

One of the main questions a parent should be asking their children is “can you teach me how”–how to learn to use an app, a device, rather than hindering your knowledge.

Why is it so difficult for parents to navigate technology issues?

Kids don’t differentiate their lives between offline and online like parents do. We’re more like digital immigrants, but online is our kid’s world.

Also when you’re having a conversation with your kids, realize that your kid’s world is all connected. Asking questions could help you to understand your kid’s world better.

What are some basic guidelines that you think parents should follow?

I believe that up until age 13, you should have all your kids passwords. There’re all these safeguards like the government can’t track anyone under that age. you have to be at least age 13 to have a Facebook. Content positioning is so different from seeing an Avengers movie. They’re going to fight you around age 8-10, more 8-year-olds have smartphones than people who don’t.

We need to set up expectations, like places to put the phone at night, what apps to use or not use until that trust is built.

Using the phone in the bedroom at night: My kids are 11 and 9, and they are not allowed to take their phones to their room. There are certain guidelines/rooms that they cannot take their phones in, they can’t take their phones into the bathroom either. It’s a great policy, no matter how old.

You’ve said that it starts with parents, what does that look like?

It starts with parents, we have to model it.

I was addicted to my phone. I think if families say we’re going to be at the dinner table without technology at least four nights a week, that would be a great place to start. Four nights a week around the dinner table would at least start a healthy relationship with technology.

Thanks so much to Matt McKee for taking time out to talk with us. To learn more information about Parent Chat, visit their website and to learn more about Circle with Disney, visit Amazon.