SALT LAKE CITY — Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, Houseparty. There are now 7 million apps available for smart devices that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
Staying on top of that technology can be challenging for parents.
And it’s not just apps that parents have to think about. There is also text messaging, screen time, online predators and cyberbullying. It’s a lot, so how do you avoid losing your kids to technology?
Every parent uses a different technique, so KSL went to the pros to find out what they do with their own children.
Here is advice from three tech experts with three methods of monitoring their kids online.
Tim Fisher is the Director of Operations for a company that engineers, designs and builds fiber optic networks. He is the father of four children, 13 years old and younger.
On a scale of 1-10, with one being very lenient and 10 being very strict, we’d give Fisher an eight.
“Anything that my children are interested in, I want to make sure I learn it so that I can help manage it,” said Fisher.
His best advice to families: use a parental control software. He uses an app called “Qustodio” to track his kids’ online activity, see which apps they’re using, limit screen time, and as a teaching tool if they run into something harmful.
Fisher also limits where smartphones can be used. He doesn’t allow children to use any electronics in the bedrooms and has a charging station in the main part of the house the whole family uses to plug in their devices.
As far as social media goes, his four kids don’t have any accounts.
“The rule in our home is that unless the parents are involved and actually use it and have it and are familiar with it, we just kind of block it,” said Fisher.
Sarah Kimmel is an IT expert. She also runs a tech blog for families. She is the mom of two pre-teen children.
On that scale of 1-10, we’d give Kimmel a six.
Her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son don’t have social media yet, but she’s not opposed to it.
“We’ve got to loosen the reigns a little bit so they can have a social life, but just keep an eye on their behavior too,” said Kimmel.
Like Fisher, Kimmel is also a big proponent of parental software controls. She uses not just one, but two apps for monitoring.
Kimmel says at the very least, parents should install a program that reports on what apps their kids use most.
“You might not be aware that they’re using this new app called Houseparty and you’re only checking up on them on Instagram,” said Kimmel.
She also says while there are apps that monitor social media, some apps like Snapchat and Houseparty are very difficult to track because messages disappear after they are sent.
Bryan Duncan is a cyber-security expert who monitors employees’ online activity for a living. He is the father of four daughters, ages 10-18.
On the strictness scale, Duncan is harder to score, but we’d give him between a 4-6.
He doesn’t believe parental control apps can protect kids from everything, so he doesn’t use them on his daughters.
“We try to take the opposite approach to monitoring where we want our kids to trust us and then we will trust them,” said Duncan. “Then they will share with us what they’re doing online.
Instead, Duncan has a policy that mom or dad can ask for the smartphones at any time and their daughters have to hand them over so they can be physically checked. They also follow their kids on social media and have all their passwords.
“The other key is to watch your kids and see if things change,” said Duncan. “Their demeanor will change if something is going on online.”
The one thing each of the parents agreed on: talk to your children about what’s happening in their online universe often, and don’t be afraid to become a tech expert yourself.
“Become that technology expert so that you can help your kids navigate this world,” said Kimmel.