Cyber Parenting in a Mac World

Published March 11, 2013 by joypatton


This is what I found in my minivan this week.  I guess the girls (age 3 and 5) aren’t ready to be responsible for an iPod Touch.  It was at the bottom of a bag of chips.  In my imagination I hear some of you saying “Well…duh…I would never give my kids an iPhone.”

Yes…I am one of those “bad moms” who has given my kids iPhones.  Here’s the rationale in case you have been contemplating such topics.  At our house, phones are handed down from oldest to youngest.  Dad gets the new whatever and then mom gets his old phone; Connor (12) gets mom’s phone, and Kyle (10) gets Connor’s phone and last time the girls got an old iPhone 3G that we turned into an iPod touch.  It’s just music and games, no phone, text, email or internet.

The boys have had cell phones since they were 7.  That was about the age we started letting them go places on their own in our small town, including the library and Sonic.  A cell phone was an extra layer of security for me as a mom.  But it has no magical protective powers, especially when they fail to hear it ring.  You still have to teach kids how to be responsible.  We also made the decision to drop our home phones, so as they were old enough to stay home alone, they had to have a access to a phone.  Their iPhones are their iPods and handheld gaming systems all rolled into one.  And quite frankly I get tired of sharing my iPhone so they can play games.  And let’s be honest iPhone moms…you have probably downloaded a few apps for your toddler to play.  The other day Faith (3) sat next to her friend and they both had mom’s iPhones and were masterfully navigating all their favorite apps.  Do you realize she will probably never know what a “mouse” is?

Our parenting philosophy has been that this technology isn’t going away.  It’s only getting more and more a part of our every day lives and culture.  We want to teach them how to use it and take care of it while they are in our home.  The boys have savings accounts that are designated as “Phone repair and replacement” that they put part of their allowance into.  Ironically the older one has needed to use this account more than the younger one.  Both have done a pretty good job of keeping track of their devices.  Once one was left in a store and one got left on a bus in Florida, but Andrew and I have made the same stupid mistakes before with our iPhones.  We don’t make them pay for their service plans, but that will eventually come as they get closer to leaving home.  Both boys take their devices to school (Connor even saved up and bought an iPad to use at school) as part of Bring Your Own Technology to school.  The teacher have incorporated these kinds of tools into their curriculum, and the boys have enjoyed having them.

In case you are considering this for your kids, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned that I wish I would have known at the beginning.

Filters – I don’t think any child should have unfiltered access to the Internet anywhere.  I’m a momma bear about that, and it’s my job to make sure all computers and devices have filters.  At school, the Internet access is filtered. But other places it’s not.  I found an app for iPhones and iPads called Mobicip.  It’s the best one of its kind and has worked well.  It gives them a lot of access, and looks like Safari.  At home, my favorite for Mac has been Content Barrier.

Restrictions – All iPhones have places where you can set up a password and restrictions under “Settings.”  I wish I would have restricted “deleting apps” and “installng apps” from the beginning.  That way they always have to talk to you before they buy any app or delete apps you install, like Mobicip.  You can also restrict content for music, movies, TV shows, books, apps and in-app purchases.  Definitely restrict in-app purchases.

Television – No access to YouTube on these devices.  YouTube does not filter content and there is no rating system, so there is no way to limit what your kids can see.  Ideally they would watch YouTube only on our home computer in the middle of the kitchen.  If you have Netflix apps, you can limit what types of programs are allowed in your Netflix account online.  Also don’t forget that you can set content restrictions in your cable device as well as satellite.  Always a good idea no matter what age your kids are.

Other rulesMom and Dad have your password and can check your phone any time.  Andrew looks at text messages and photos to see what’s going on.  No devices in rooms on school nights after 9:00.  I wish we would have started this from the beginning.  We are trying to change that now, and it’s difficult.  One screen at a time.  We don’t let the kids play on their phones and watch TV at the same time.  They have to pick one.

If you are still one of those parents that would never allow their kid to have an iPhone, this post was not for you.  If you are trying to navigate how to parent in a cyber age, I hope you have found it helpful.  But maybe don’t let the preschoolers have one just yet…

What other rules/ restrictions/ apps have you found helpful?



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