When it comes to gift giving this Christmas, a new device is a popular choice for children and young adults alike. Mobile phones, iPad devices, iPod touch devices, Wii consoles, PlayStation consoles and Xbox consoles often rank highly on Santa lists. This year tech toys are also in high demand, with Cozmo by Anki (a robot with personality requiring use of a fee App) and Luvabella (an artificial intelligence doll) both featuring in Smyth’s top toy list for 2017.
So if you will be welcoming a new device or tech gadget into your home this Christmas here are some points to consider:
- Firstly, if you are purchasing for a godchild/ grandchild/ niece/ nephew etc. make sure to get the “go ahead” from the parents beforehand. They may not feel their child is ready for their own device just yet or may wish to be the ones to get their child his/her first device. Either way, it is easier to establish this prior to gifting.
- If you are purchasing for your own child, set up all necessary parental controls and/or filters on the device before Christmas morning. Santa is also advised to do the same! The kinds of controls employed and filters enabled is a personal parenting decision and will depend on the age of your child and their online savviness. Although parental controls may differ for each device and indeed each make, model and OS, most devices offer controls when it comes to Apps –downloading them, blocking specific Apps, in-app purchases etc. As social networking, chatting and gaming Apps remain extremely popular among our children, it is important that parents enable controls. For instance, Apple offer Family Sharing and Ask to Buy where a request notification will appear on the parents device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) whenever a child initiates a new purchase or free download. You can then review the item and either approve or decline the request, from your own device. Google Play offers a similar service for Android Devices –see purchase approval on Google Play. You can also enable restrictions to prevent in-app purchases for Apple and/or require a password before installing Apps. Similar settings are also available for Android users where a password or authentication is required for purchases from Google Play. Parents should spend a bit of time getting to know the device, its features, what it can do, what restrictions/controls are available etc. Ask about parental controls/restrictions in-store before purchasing and check out Apple Support for Apple products or Android Support for Android Products.
- Draw up a Contract of Use or Rules of Use to accompany the device. I know it may seem extreme to apply rules and conditions with a Christmas gift, but it is much easier to establish these from the onset instead of trying to negotiate terms with a child who previously had free reign. Moreover, children admit they feel safer when they have rules. There are numerous templates available online, such as Common Sense Media Family Media Agreements and Device Contracts and the American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Plan. You may have some basic rules included such as “no devices in the bedroom/at dinner”, with space left to tailor the contract are they begin using the device and behaviours/issues/concerns emerge. Many parents admit they loosen the reigns a bit over Christmas, especially when it comes to screen time. As your child will be eager to get to know their new device, and what it can do, they may not want to put it down. In an effort not to be “phubbed” all Christmas, acknowledge this in the contract, outlining that you will allow a certain period over Christmas to become familiar with the device under certain conditions (e.g. that they discuss their new device with you, no devices when grandparents visit, once school returns the “rules of use” kick in). Akin to the parental controls enabled, the specifics of the contract or agreement is a personal parenting decision and will depend on the age of your child and your relationship with them. The contract can be revised and updated on a regular basis, as your child and their online activities grow.
- It is important that we, as parents, get engaged with our child and their new device. Checking out the device prior to gifting will greatly serve you in this regard. While we might welcome the peace and quiet of a child glued to a screen over Christmas, we need to remember, that similar to a new pet a device is for life, not just for Christmas. And as such, with each new device, comes new responsibilities. After the initial hype has waned, it is crucial to have regular discussions with your child about how they are getting on with their new device. Help prepare them for situations they may encounter and how to manage or deal with same. For instance, age in-appropriate content; requests for personal information; cyber-bullying etc. Regularly review privacy settings on their device and online accounts.
- Finally, remember there are amazing benefits to technology. There are thousands of educational, creative and age-appropriate Apps for you and your child to enjoy. Like most things in life, the key is balance. So enjoy Christmas, allow a bit of indulgence, confident in the knowledge that you have the foundation set for a good start in the New Year.