Phil and Mia

Wherein I struggle with the issue of online protection versus education

My kids are starting back to school this week — one in third grade, the other in pre-K. And as crazy as it seems, apparently 8 years old is where we start having the serious cell phone and Internet discussions.

Now Mia, my eldest, has used an iPhone 3G has a makeshift iPod for some time. It's not hooked up to Wifi, however, so it's basically been music and a bunch of blurry, grainy pictures of who knows what. (I'm actually a little afraid to look.) More and more, though, she's asking about "getting Internet on my phone." And despite my job being what it is and my knowledge of mobile and the Internet and the good and bad that come with both, my wife and I really don't know yet what we want to do there.

Does an 8-year-old need unfettered access to the Internet, in the palm of her hand, at all hours of the day? Probably not. Do I want my kid to learn about all the great stuff that's out there, and grow up with this technology in a mature, responsible way? Of course. And do I want her to be able to use all these great toys that I'm extremely fortunate to play with for my job? You better believe it. Being a nerd is fun.

But I struggle with the practicalities, too.

At what point do you give your kid unfettered access to the Internet?

Even with as good as they are, I'm not crazy about the idea of "kid mode" apps that radically change the experience of a device. I'm not crazy about the idea of a technical limitation replacing parenting — if I think my kid should only get an hour a day on a tablet, then I probably should man up and enforce that. The user profile on Android tablets (and maybe possibly on phones at some point, though I'm not 100 percent sure about that) controls access to certain apps, which is one way of going about things. But is it the right way for me and my kids? I don't know.

But what I really started thinking about recently is that for all the talk of protecting our kids online, we don't talk enough about educating them. How do we teach them to use these devices safely? How do we explain to them that, yes, there are naked people on the Internet, and while that may be OK for adults, it's probably not something they should be looking at yet. Or, in a few years, that porn isn't real. And that pictures have repercussions. And digital footprints. And phishing. And malware. And trolls. Or any of the other infinite ways ... hang on. I just shifted from educating back to protecting without even noticing. Should this be the new Home Economics class? The new Sex Ed? How early do you teach it? What about the kids whose parents don't want them to have these gadgets so young? Or whose families can't afford them? (That's another discussion we've been having at my house — most people aren't tripping over computers and tablets and phones like we do, and it's another reason I'm glad I now have an office to separate some of the sprawl from our home life.)

It's so easy to revert back to worrying about protection and not education.

I don't have all the answers. And even if I did, my answers won't necessarily work well for anyone else. (Note to self: Be better to your parents. This shit's hard.)

In a few week's we'll (Alex and Richard and Derek) be in Berlin and Las Vegas (myself and Andrew) for a couple trade shows. We'll see a lot of new devices. We'll hear more about protection.

I'm going to start keeping a closer watch on who's willing to work on the educating.

Other thoughts on the week that was ...

  • I completely agree with Jerry that any and all games should be using Google's cloud save feature. But aside from doing the right thing, what incentive do they have? If you were to load the same game you've played on a phone onto a tablet as well, why wouldn't the developer want you to spend more time playing its game? And that doubles if there are in-app purchases available.
  • 'Bout time, Motorola.
  • My old newspaper pal Andy Marlette is finally starting to share his excellent editorial cartoons on Google+. (Which is far better for that sort of thing than Facebook.) Circle him up. But do try to remember that they're cartoons.
  • I wish I had some sort of insight into things like Ferguson and the other horrific acts we've seen all too many times in recent months and years. But I do know that not shooting folks is a good place to start.
  • Props to The Verge/Vox for actually (and finally) sending people to Ferguson. Aggregation only goes so far.
  • I love these comments from first-time podcast listeners. I still remember back when I first listened to Dieter and Dan.
  • I'm still not crazy about this.
  • Oy, these ridiculous stories over the weekend about Google tracking your location.

That's it for this week. I've got lunches to pack. See y'all Monday.

 

Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: Think of the children ...

86 Comments

Cute pic Phil! I have an almost 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter. They start school this week too. Not this school year but next year (5th grade) is when we have discussed him getting a phone. Their Laptops, iPads and iPod touches are password protected by us and we have the password so no unsupervised access. Once they get a phone they will be on their own. We are worried but I am pretty impressed with the increasing level of maturity with my son so that makes me feel a bit better. Still not looking forward to it...

When we were kids we rode to stores that had Playboy, Hustler and other adult magazines on racks. We were also told not to give out personal information to strangers. The internet isn't all that much different. Some kids will venture into the other world, majority won't and just wan't to play the latest game that's getting all the hype. Let your kid be a kid exploring but also keep an eye and ear open at what's going on without making them feel like you're spying on them.

Of course, there was always someone behind the counter who would not let you actually see INSIDE the magazines.

Not to mention that there's a lot of stuff on the net that's more... Intense, than any issue of playboy

The thing with personal information is, as is often demonstrated in these comment sections, people often all to easily forget they're dealing with other, very real people who in reality they know nothing about.

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As the father of a 22, 16, 7 and 3 year old I can see no reason whatsoever to hand an 8 year old the internet. Nothing positive will come of that at that age.

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I'd agree on the 8-year-old not having Internet access all the time, on their own. But I know, that Internet will become even more important for education in the future. So there is simply the need to sit down with your child, show them things, and slowly teach them how to use these things.

I, myself, got my first PC at the age of 9. It was an old 386, which my parents no longer used (My mom used to work in IT, my dad in financing business). That PC was not in my own room, it was sitting in my dad's home bureau, and I wasn't allowed to play all-day long with it. At that time, I actually didn't spend that much time with it. I neither had a TV in my own room. I got my first "new" "own" PC at the age of 14. I bought it from my own money. And soon after, I started to get interested in Hardware, swapped graphics cards and tought myself how to do things. I had to buy my first mobile phone myself, at the age of 16. (Here in Germany, children under 16 aren't allowed to buy even Prepaid phones/"contracts".) Today, turning 30 next month, I am working as a Graphics/Web-Designer and I am spending most of my time in front of my PC and other gadgets.

That said, while I don't have kids, yet, I for sure will not give them smartphones or computers at the early age, that I know that some children around here, get their first devices. I see the necessity to teach them the new technologies. But I don't think it is good to give them all the tools and let them just "explore" things on their own. It is a different time now, than I grew up. Internet has changed, has become mainstream, and there are way more things that can go wrong. I'm actually not solely talking about porn. (Living in central europe... Porn isn't as big of a deal as in the USA.) There are plenty of other dagers out there. Being it the most simplest things ("Don't just open any E-Mail attachments blindly!") or topics like pedophiles stalking children in webchats.

Sit down with your children. Educate them. Show them, how to do things. And as they grow older, they will gain more knowledge and can be granted more freedom with all-things-technology.

I also agree.
Phil, when did you get your fist smart phone/tablet?
How old were you when you started surfing the internet?

We often forget HOW FAST anybody can pickup the "internet" thing.
As for knowing how to use a computer.... same thing. They show young children in the Amazon
that pickup an ipad and start using it. When your child actually NEEDS a tablet and/or phone
connected to the internet, they will learn how to use it much faster than you and I can imagine.

In the mean time, "screen" time is better devoted to reading a good book.
People think early access to the internet / computers will give their kids a leg up (or rather
will prevent them from being "left behind"). Love of reading is a much stronger ingredient
in a kid's success (and personal enjoyment) in life. The only tablet my 7 years old son
'will get for the foreseeable future is a kindle paper white (not fire ;-) ).

And Phil! Kudos on going through the pain of self inquiry and not just caving in to this naive
drowning of our children in electronic gadgets and social networks.

I use an app for my 2 daughters (16 and 13) called Funamo. I can set restrictions on the fly if I need to such as school times, app usage, and bed times and Web Content filtering to name a few. What I appreciate most is that it sends to the website their Internet history, call history, location report, so history complete with content.

I don't check their stuff on the daily, but I do about every other week. I don't use it to set them up for failure or use it as a means to ground them. I get an interesting perspective of my kids through this snooping. Through this I've been able to have discussions/education with my girls about social media appropriate behavior, posting to get attention woes, and how anything you put online, stays online no matter how badly you want it to go away.

Just my two cents. It's okay for a parent to invade cyber privacy of their children. In my opinion, I believe it's better to guide/steer them to make better decisions when it comes to the Internet. Besides, I bought their phone and pay for their plan. It's my choice what user experience is necessary or appropriate.

On the subject of pornography, the online stuff viewable now is almost beyond belief compared to what was available when I was young. Yet young people now do not seem to be obviously damaged by it....I guess that's because it's not going to displace what is most important to young persons, especially in adolescence, i.e. relationships with their peers, and real ones at that.
I'm not saying that no harm is done, but the average child or adolescent is pretty robust.

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I agree with you, the amount of stuff online and people still are addicted to candy crush.

Damn mobile games are what is really wrong with this generation.

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When I was young, we were taught that only values really worth pursuing in life were goodness, truth, beauty and love. As long as they're not far away I've always felt you can't go far wrong. But yes, even they might have to struggle to catch the attention of someone immersed in games.

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The fact that you're actively thinking about it will make all the difference in the world. My kids school started them in a computer lab in 1st grade, and that's when they began the discussion of online safety. It felt a little early for me, but at the time they didn't have tablets or iPod touches, when they went online usually they'd also need my assistance typing the URL.
Now with the easy access you kind of have to do both, the education and the protection hand in hand. The main difference is if you say there are some bad people on the internet so be careful, or there are bad people on the internet so you can't use it.

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My son being three, has already mastered his Nabi 2 and my Tab 3 but the only form of internet he gets is Netflix.

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My 5 year old has my old tablet. It has Internet access. He has a Google account and has his own YouTube subscriptions. He has his own Play Store downloads. I closely monitor everything he does and he's only allowed to use the tablet under close supervision, like while myself or his mom are in the room with him. He can't go into his bedroom alone with it.

He can't read yet and doesn't use a browser app so we don't have to worry about him wandering around in the Internet, but in a couple of years that will change. We're hoping his very young exposure to the Internet will make him safer rather than not. It will be something he was always used to.

I know when he's curious in several years he's gonna look up certain... things. That's inevitable. But we'll do our best to keep him safe while he's young and address those things as they happen as best as possible. That's all any of us can do.

Posted from my Motorola Moto G.

Five years old, using tablets proficiently, but can't read? My parents really did spoil me and my sisters by getting us to read before we started pre-k.

Also, i applaud the system you set up with him.

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He actually turns 5 in one month, to be fair. He won't even be in kindergarten for a whole year. We are starting to introduce him to basic reading skills but he's not there yet.

Posted from my Motorola Moto G.

I think you're absolutely right in your questioning of what age is the right age. And I wish there was a set criteria, but honestly I think it's just based on your child's maturity and how they are with other things.. For instance if one has a bad habit of pushing your limits on other restrictions that you've set.. TV, junk food, staying up late, Idk whatever, then you know that they're more likely to do the same with your rules for a device. And I think if you use the built in settings like you said to limit them, versus verbal warning and caution, they're more curious as to why things are blocked, therefore more tempted to find out.

I don't know, I have yet to have children so I'm kind of speaking out the side of my head, I hope what I said makes sense.

But I agree from the time we were kids to now, the chances of running across something that could scar you for life has intensified quite a bit haha.

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Good read. And I can see why Snap does not agreed with you. And I also give kudos to The Verge for covering Ferguson. They seemed to be the only ones to care what was happening there. Also did anyone else see that article about the kid who live tweeted what happened? Crazy stuff.

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No kids here, but I feel I would be very conservative and let them hit the internet at age 14 supervised* only. At age 17 in its entirety by themselves. To a degree. Anything resembling a chat room would be out. And no social media until 17. Same rules apply for Mobile devices.

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Everyone is right in some way, but that is pretty extreme. 17? You have to trust your kids and let them make mistakes growing up or else they'll hit adulthood without a clue.

Posted from my Motorola Moto G.

The thing is their peers aren't going to let them not have a clue. They're going to get pressured into it and do it behind their parents back which is just going to make things more tense in the house. And I believe every kid should have a phone of some sort at whatever age they start going places without you, they need to be able to reach you, and in this day and age that's going to mean they can get on the Internet with it, even if you block data they're going to get on WiFi.. And if you get them a jitterbug.. Well... Fuck you lol.

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Well, I hope your kids don't hate you because that is extreme.

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I'm not a parent either , but I think that would be likely to do more damage than good, to your relationship with them if nothing else.

It's always the people that come from super strict parents that go most off the rails.

Besides, at 17 someone really isn't a child anymore.

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kids are the best salespeople in the world. I doubt many can or would withstand the pressure coming from their kids. Not to mention they all get introduced early to tech. My kids school issues personal iPads in the 5th grade not to mention computer lab in 1st. My son already types as well if not better than me and he is going into the 4th grade, blows my mind actually!

My parents are not very tech orientated so growing up I had unfettered access to everything. Even if they had tried to use a parental filter I would have easily bypassed it. I've seen some stuff I'd rather forget and I've actively searched for stuff that today would see me added to a list. I think I turned out okay. The Internet is a wealth of information, empowering and now part of everyday life. If I had a kid I would sit them down to give them a general overview, explain a few things and give them some advice but then I would leave them to it. They need to experience and learn without any mollycoddling. You always run the risk that by trying to restrict something you simply make it more appealing. You can only trust that they will be good and you need to be there to talk about anything they find.

Very interesting topics you bring up. My child is 2, and I'm already trying to figure out when to let him do things with technology. We don't let him use our phones or tablets almost ever, but sometimes they are great babysitters when you need just ten minutes to get stuff done.

About Ferguson, I wish people would allow the investigation to move forward and finish before burning their city down. I'm sure there is more to the story then we and they know, on both sides of the story.

Can't wait for September!

I don't have kids of my own, but I guess my generation was the first one raised with computers. My sisters and I shared one till we were about 10, but the internet was so slow and terrible at our house then we used it for games 95% of the time. When we got our own, we started to branch out, but my parents had raised three girls to not know what sex is and we really had no interest in seeing it or any other adult content. I dove headfirst into role play forums and fanfiction at about 12, though. And YouTube was wonderful for finding TV shows to watch, but I did torrent some things in high school till one of the sites hosting a torrent file got me infected.
Much as I hate to say it, the internet is a lot about learning from mistakes. But the key for me was don't be afraid to be social, just be coy as hell when they start asking for real world information.

Oh, and teach them that when they break things, they will have to sit there the entire time you're fixing it, and once they've learned how, it's their job to fix it if they can. The thought of having to reset your computer and reload your data and programs should dissuade at least some daredevil behavior. I was the only one of my sisters who got that and I'm now the one that is usually called on for technical questions.

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Just started using this for our 7 year old last week. I'm impressed so far. We do completely lock out the browser though.

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Set times or conditions when they can be on the internet while you are there. If you have to install an app to turn off access at specified time, do so. You don't have to look over her shoulder all the time, but tell her to ask you questions before she goes skating off to some unknown website. She has to know you're going to trust her, but like Reagan said, trust but verify:) Teach her what to look for and be aware there will be goofs along the way - and be prepared to honestly explain the reasons you don't want her on them when she gets there. Fortunately she's 8. That's a great age - they tend to listen and what they hear then tends to stay with them to some extent when they are 13. Which is also a good age, but boundaries get pushed - hard - and it requires a massive sense of humor. At that point you may as well allow unfettered access because they are going to get it regardless. So your job now is to teach habits for later on.

Nice thoughts as I m 39 and having our first child. I have a few years before this may be a concern. My wife does not want I our child to be glued to a tablet or phone like we see so many kids of our friends using it as a pacifier. I do want my child to be at the forefront of the technology to come in due time for the reasons of education. As an adult I personally use my access to information on the Palm of my Hand on a daily basis but I can't lie I do tend to search for the latest nip slip photo. My point being when our children reach a certain age, their curiosity can not be controlled and they will find the bad things we don't want our precious children to see.

My curiosity as a child was limited to R rated movies and an old leather bag filled with hustler and playboy mags that I found deep in my dad's closet. At 10 years old it was shocking but I survived.

I see it's much easier now to find what we call filth at a push of a button but we need to still be responsible parent but realize our babies will find it whether deep in a closet or finding the loop hole on the computer in your office.

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At least you're in a relatively good position to educate your children, having a good grasp of the ways of the web.

So many parents, even today, have very little grasp of how the virtual world turns beyond Facebook and YouTube, how can they even hope to educate their children on a subject they know so little about themselves?

The other side of the coin of course is having the burden of knowledge, it can be a horrible place at times...

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While our kids were computer/tech savvy at an early age ( I have a picture of my son sitting on my lap using the mouse at around age 3) we always had rules in place.

Mostly it was normal stuff that any parent should do. All passwords were kept in a shared file so we could access their accounts at any time. Browser history was never to be cleared (so we could check). No signups on any site without prior approval.

Penalty for screwing up any of the above? Loss of all electronics (not just the computer) for a month. For kids that was like a death sentence. Our daughter did it once and my son learned from that experience. Losing social media (myspace back then), iPod, phone, stereo was a jarring experience for her. She went from connected to the stone age in less than an hour.

Of course, a lot of it has the do with the maturity level of the child. I have always been open about everything with the kids. Nothing was ever a taboo topic. I would rather them learn things from me than from the kids at school or wherever. It has not always been an easy or even comfortable task, but they are better off for it...

Being able to talk about anything at anytime is an overlooked parenting technique. I wish that more parents would be open about things instead of acting like things are either off-limits or flat out ignoring them like they do not exist

It's still an ongoing topic with my kids. 16 and 12. Phones weren't allowed until age 12, but for my 16 year old it was a dumb phone. I was still using a pre back then. 12 year old got an gnex that was hanging around for her first.

Now, they must surrender the phones if I ask (I pay for them) but to also check up on them. Can't be everywhere all the time, but we do discuss things and proper usage.

One of the best "scare tactics" is the fact that any future employer may see what you have done online. It's a virtual trail of your life nowadays. Be safe, so nothing comes back to bite you later on. The drama that social media creates, they can figure out how to deal with that, and I will be here to assist.

As a 15 year old with a dad as an IT and a mom who was married to an IT, we were allowed access to the internet as soon as we could read a book. They trust us, and they can see everything we do so there's no secrets. Everything seems to work out well, However only the 14 year old & I have actual working phones, the younger two are limited to a desktop.

AT&T Galaxy S III
T-Mobile Moto G

My son turned 7 recently. No chance in hell will he get unfettered access to the net in another year.

-Suntan

When police departments become militarized (and most have) you can expect them to respond with increasing force. It's only going to get worse. For the protesters out there; protest away, but do it peacefully! If Martin Luther King had decided to be violent (and rightfully so) against his oppressors he would have been casted as the bad guy and change would have taken much longer.

To all the Android Central staff. Keep up the great work on providing us with the latest Android news. The staff here is a lot better then the staff on CB. All CB does is copy and paste articles from other websites and it seems like most of the staff has abandoned that site. Every article is either written by Blaze or James Richardson. It was also funny they didn't post the article that was posted here on the AC on the sales of particular OS's from the 2nd quarter of last year to this years 2nd quarter which BlackBerry was down 78% from last quarter. Yeah BlackBerry is on the rise alright lol as many members of CB claim. But if you post a comment that happens to be a fact and it is negative towards BlackBerry you are called a troll SMH

This. Not to mention being in negative in any way on WPCentral.

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Yeah people just dont understand what the word troll means and they are way too sensitive over a phone. They act as if its a member of their family SMH. I'm a Samsung fan but do you actually think I care if someone says bad about them? NO! Get a grip people its only a phone!

Posted Via AT&T Galaxy Note 3

I can only go by how I raised my kid. It all went by her being rewarded, for her accomplishments. As long as her GPA was above 4.2. I trusted her. Flip phone around 6th grade (12) . My old iPhone 3G in 2010(14) . Then she got the newest iPhone when they came out. Whether she asked for it or not. Her GPA corrected was over 4.5.
So at 15 she was allowed on Facebook to keep up with only her real life friends, especially her music associations.
Now she leaves for college on Mon, so this course of action seems to have worked out OK.

I never asked for other folks advice on how to raise my kid. If your worried about your kid hating you for the decisions you made...I'm already guessing you lost the battle.

I always explained the Consequence's of not doing the right thing's. So its the kids choice to right or wrong. Frankly there is nothing on the internet scarier than my wife and I if we caught her doing wrong.
Its not for everybody and I don't have strong faith myself...but a church upbringing also helps a kids moral compass.

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Perhaps Phil should do a history post of AC. I wasn't here from the beginning and sometimes I get curious.

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Via HTC One

Always liked kids corner on windows phone my kid is at the right age or that but it's not for a 8 or 9 year old that wants a phone for his/herself.

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It's Phil's site and his one post a week that is about whatever the fuck he wants it to be. Often it has nothing to do with Android. If you want robotic sounding articles go to any other tech website out there and enjoy.

`Great piece Phil. While I fully admit that I am not a parent, I don't think I'm crazy in saying that there really isn't a book on parenting at the best of times, and with something so relatively new as the internet and mobile devices, even less so with it.

I don't know if there is a right answer to the question, but there are definitely things that I see with people I know who have young kids that I'm learning from. Someone I know actually bought an iPhone case designed for a 1 year old to hold, had handles on the side and the phone itself was basically enclosed in a plastic ball. It'll be a cold day in a very hot place before I do that. They truly do use their iDevices as babysitters all the time, and that isn't right.

There's also the very divisive issue of "screen time" I know someone with kids who are 10-12 and they have a hard limit of 3 hours per week of screen time, doesn't matter what it is. But their parents don't understand that not all "screen time" is equal. I'd argue that a kid playing minecraft for 2 hours is much better than watching the same movie for the 87th time, since minecraft is interactive, encourages the imagination and problem solving skills, etc. It would be like me spending 4 hours working on reading a 1200 page engaging novel, or spending 4 hours reading garbage magazines. Sure, I could say that I've been "reading" for 4 hours both ways, but which one would I be better off spending the 4 hours doing?

Now again, I'm not saying that the kid should be playing minecraft for 12 hours a day every day. Kids should, you know, go outside and do things too. But the way I look at it is that there needs to be education, moderation, and monitoring.

there's no one answer, and every child would be different, but it makes me cringe when the people I see with kids go so far both ways, some being completely anti technology, and some who rely on it to raise their kids. I only hope that when I have kids I'll be able to strike the right balance in the middle of that, and also hope that at the end of it I'll be able to say that I did the best job I could have.

I'll have that answer to that in hopefully 25 years or so, I guess.

When my kids were little, I made the rule no computers in the bedroom only in public areas of the house. That was easy when they were desktops. I didn't imagine in those days that ipods, tablets, phones, and laptops would be common possessions for kids that weren't even teens yet! When the ipods came that rule sort of went away. My 19 y.o. first friend got a phone when they were in 5th grade but he flew as an unaccompanied minor and almost got stranded at an airport once. Now I see 2nd graders with phones.

One of the things that worked well for us was my kids had to buy their first phones (tracfones) and pay for the minutes themselves. (I also used tracfone at the time) It made them realize that this isn't free and they keep track of it better when they have some skin in the game. Later I started buying their minutes when it got to the point where I wanted them to have phones so I could reach them or they could call home for rides. My 16 yo actually has a need for a phone with a texting plan because of some volunteer work but is OK with just having wifi internet (wouldn't have to have but would like to include smartphone functions to replace failing ipod).

I think these issues aren't going to get easier for parents these days.

It really depends on the kid. Our oldest son gravitated straight to porn in 6th grade, and any time we weren't around, so we had to set up parental controls. Our youngest son mostly researches transportation and playing games. So, he got a smart phone much earlier. Night time it is all turned off and charging for all of us. It is too alluring and sleep disturbing.

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In my house the kids don't get cell phones tell the are in middle school. Now I do allow them to play games on my note 10.1 but they are also aware that some games are not all games are appropriate. We try to talk to the kids often enough so they understand what's going on and what's OK.

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I'm a patent of a 14 and 12 year. Technology is here to stay. We need to teach are children how to be responsible at a young age. We started very early. We talk to are children about everything and in turn they talk to us. There is a trust between us which is key. They no the consequences if that trust is broken. Both my children started with leap frog products between 5 and 3 and moved up to DSi all versions. By the time my son was 8 he already had a cell phone from kajeet. He's autistic and on occasion would leave the school when upset. Kajeet at that time was the only phone offering GPS tracking, plus you can make a list of all phone numbers he can only receive or call and it's a flip phone. Besides none of our phones interest him. My 14 year old has a smartphone. My only issue with her is pandora. She's come mighty close to going over her data, but she watches it closely. The phone goes off and is handed to me when she gets home. Both my children have had their own computers for about 3 years. My husband and I spent many, many hours going over how to use the internet and how not to use the internet unwisely. Their computers and other devices with internet capabilities are always used under the supervision of myself or my husband and never on their bedrooms. The wifi password is changed daily and they can only get it if chores and homework are done. My daughter did have a Facebook account but deleted it after awhile say an i quote "there's nothing but idiots on there". Otherwise no other social media site as of yet. I know I sound like a paranoid mother, but trust me the education given by their peers at school is enough for one day. You should hear the stories my kids tell me.

I have 4 children, and equal mix of sons and daughters. We haven't had too much problem with them, and their online expereinces. They know right from wrong, and I trust them. You can do everything in your power to protect your kids, but they can still figure out ways around filters, and ignore your rules. People will do what they want, no matter what parents, or government, say. Really, the only way to protect them and maek sure they grow up to be decent people is to love them unconditionally, and teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. Is it easy? Of course not, the whole home environment needs to be centered on what's right and good, but what they learn at home will serve them for the rest of their lives.

My 6 year old has an ipod touch. She spends all her time on youtube. Event with children controls on, we're very wary of what she watches. There's a lot of scary stuff out there.

We are going though this right now with an 11 year old. She has an iPod, and I am just not ready to put out the $$ (even prepaid) for a phone for her. At the same time, I am trying to find a messaging app that would let her text with her few friends that have phones, and that we parents could monitor The experience has been frustrating to say the least.

I got my daughter a dumbphone when she was 11, so that I could find out when the bus was late and so she could text a little with her friends who were starting to get phones. Of course that was only acceptable for so long, as it's insane how many people seem to think nothing of handing their 7 year old a bazillion-dollar smartphone! So this spring just before she turned 13 I got her a smart phone. She is very good about not streaming video on our data plan and it keeps her connected with her group of friends which is great. I've said some things to her about internet safety and they also did a program for them at her school when they started middle school. It's just not possible to really keep them offline once they're middle-school aged, so you just have to hope they are paying attention when people talk to them about it...

My concern (with a 2 and a 3 year old) is its impossible to plan. If TODAY between controls and parenting I feel %100 safe..that plan is obsolete in 2 years. Years ago it was having your Desktop in the living room...but that became obsolete with mobile....Holy flurking snit! I do not want to know what tech will be like in 14 years and having to police 16 and 17 girls...forget goole glass jfdksjlsk sagdakjfhkjsahfjsa fka

"if I think my kid should only get an hour a day on a tablet, then I probably should man up and enforce that."
Exactly. My daughter is now 17 and has learned to be responsible with Internet resources from day 1. The advantage I had was that, as tech-savvy as she's growing up to be, I'm still way ahead of her. The far more important advantage is just what you wrote. We talked about things as they occurred and most times when they changed (like when she became "visible" on FaceBook.) We took responsibility for teaching her how to handle the 'net and she in turn took responsibility for how she did so. It worked.
I can understand parents who aren't as tech-savvy using nanny-ware to help enforce rules and I've seen some kids with the best parenting still take some bad turns. I'd still say the far most salient thing we parents should be doing is modeling good net behavior and talking to our kids about what they should and shouldn't do on the net.

First and foremost anyone passing Judgement on what is RIGHT for another's kids are making a grave error. every child/family is different and choices need to be made with those differences in mind.

What has worked for my family as far as Tablets/Video gaming time goes is. We talk with our kids about what is apporpriate and what is in apporpriate. Our kids earn "Electronics" time during the summer by engaging in some other activity be it playing OUTSIDE or reading. They, despite their youth, are allowed to watch You Tube witht he knowledge that they may encounter adult language. Repeating the in apporpriate Language or Behavior will result in loss of electronic privleges.

As parents we monitor their usage. Maintain passwords etc. Google is great for this becuase I can log into my son's Gmail account, pop over to Plus and see what he ha commente on, or look at his Browser history

Alright, I have to chime in here, as I have read a few comments with no horror stories, so I will begin the nightmare.

First off, I am a 30 year old father who started young, I have 3 kids, my oldest son is 12 and has special needs (encepalopathy, adhd, sensory integration disorder), my middle son is 7, and my daughter is 3.

Last Christmas, my wife and I bought our kids each their own tablet, 2 Galaxy Tab 3 7 inchers, and a FunTab for our daughter which had a kid mode on it. Now sadly, the funtab didn't last but 2 weeks in the hands of my daughter (she broke it) so she uses my Transformer Slider SL101 (which surprisingly is like a sherman tank and has survived anything she could do to it). My youngest son has had a decent experience on his tablet, while behaving and not getting into anything he shouldn't.

Here is where it gets dicey... My 12 year old, who doesn't pick up on the difference between safe and dangerous behaviors, was exposed to pornography by his peers. We noticed this one day, when he was away at school and I was trying to fix his tablet because he was "having problems" with it being slow. Being the IT guy in the house, I was diving in, trying to solve the problems by removing tons of crap apps, changing his settings, and whenever I got to his browser, it hit me. So I showed his mother, we sat down and talked before he came home about the right approach, tried to keep ourselves calm and come up with a way to discuss it without making him feel ashamed.

We are still young ourselves, so we know that boys and girls alike are going to get curious about sex, nudity and the like, so it wasn't that we didn't expect it would happen, because we grew up as the internet was evolving from AOL being the big name in online access to the godsend that became broadband internet access. We were exposed at a young age online, and we know how it affected us NOW because we are adults and see what it did to us.

So he came home from school, and we sat him down to talk about it. We asked him what interested him in that kind of material. We asked him how he happened upon it, if he discovered it on his own, or if a friend had showed him. We tried our best to not accuse him or alienate him in any way, and informed him calmly about the dangers of the internet, the "wrong side" of youtube, and predators. He seemed to understand, so we thought, but his mental condition seemed to prevent him from actually understanding why it was dangerous, why he shouldn't be exploring that material; that it is demeaning to both men and women alike.

So instead of locking it down or taking it away and punishing him, we let him continue using it, explaining to him that we would be monitoring his usage on it. A month passed with no apparent interest, and then it resurfaced again. We sat him down again, and then put protection on the tablet (which the clever boy circumvented). Again, around April it happened, and we finally took the tablet away when he got caught with it at school. It didn't end there, either, because he would also get online on his Wii or the family's Xbox 360.

Unfortunately, we have decided that he is not yet ready for internet access, so we have taken away all internet-connected devices from him. This is particularly hard for him to grasp an understanding, not only because of his condition, but because his peers have the latest gadgets (tablets, smartphones, game systems, even their own computers). We feel that we are being unfair to him, but try to involve ourselves in his screen time, when he is allowed to use it.

I know this has been a read, but it is a very real thing where our children have access to all corners of the world at the press of a button or the tap of a screen. No matter how well you think you instill values in your children, it's whenever they are at their friends' houses or even at school when their peers can undo everything we have worked hard to teach our kids.,

Phil, honestly, I greatly enjoy reading your editorials. And I'm this one you could not be more correct. It's something that, while I don't have children of my own, I do deal with in the groups I volunteer with. Some kids are handed a phone at age 12 with full Internet access, and a fair number of parents have learned the hard way that it wasn't necessarily the greatest idea. But at the same time, education is also key, and we do learn best from mistakes, both our own and those of others. When I was young, the worst thing I did was rack up a major phone bill. Now, I see more serious things happen because a young person was not properly educated about the Internet and privacy and more.

I don't envy parents on this, and I know it is something that I will one day have to deal with as well should I ever have kids of my own. But I too will be paying more attention to companies that both look to protect and also look to educate as well.

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It's a tough world to live in. I have one son who just left for college and one son starting 5th grade. The youngest looks up to big brother and we did not want to restrict his access to big brother just because he's now 2 hours away; so out came one of the "old" phone drawer came an Atrix II. Yes, there is plenty of risk involved, but in today's world, the risk is abundant. We have talked and we try and keep tabs on what's going on; but the maturity level of the child involved is a factor.

But, other events push the issue anyways. 5th grade here is in a intermediate school and it's a Bring Your Own Device environment. Technology is a fact of life. As a parent, education is as much up to me as the school. He needs to learn in the right way and it's my job to guide him.

Phil….i need help setting up a gmail account to my cell phone. I have an android … I watched what you did on your phone; however, those steps i don't have. Can you please help me?

Try putting the email address in as another Google account in Settings, Accounts.

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Hi Phil, thanks for a great article. I think education and protection need to go hand in hand, especially in the early stages of introducing our children to technology and the internet. My wife (a converted luddite) and I are nervously looking forward to introducing our children to the wonders of a wider world. I will be following your journey with much anticipation :)

Thanks Phil , unfortunately I have found that it's hard to avoid technology and the internet for children , it's a huge part of our lives now. I bought an iPhone for my daughter (10 years old) because her teacher told the children, in her 4th grade class, that they could Face time each other to collaborate on homework and the teacher set up times where her students could Face time her to ask questions about homework. So my daughter was one of the only children in her class who couldn't Face time since we didn't own any Apple products. Also our elementary school is tech friendly and integrates tablets and computers into the every day curriculum. So you may have a limited window before it becomes a necessity.

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My home internet connection has a static IP, and it's registered with openDNS. My children's devices are set to use openDNS, and that means I can use their excellent service to block access to various undesirable web sites.
I've set parental controls on YouTube and Google search, the usual things.
We do also supervise our kids, checking their browser and search history too.
We also discuss what growing up means, and why we protect them.