There are a few things that parents can improvise, but checking in on your kids’ technology use, requires more careful planning — and sometimes, additional help. We know first hand how tricky it is to keep kids safe online; we need to stay current on media trends, research best practices, and find appropriate methods for our kids to connect. There’s just one tiny problem: there’s no one perfect website or book or app that tells parents what to do. If you’re looking for some extra intel on how to raise your kids in a digital world, take a look at our fave resources:
Common Sense Media
What they say: “We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.”
Why we love it: Common Sense Media is a valuable resource for parents who want to learn more about the apps, games, films, TV shows, YouTube channels, websites, and books their kids love. They offer recommendations, reviews, and “best of” lists for kids of all ages, and publish engaging articles that cover everything from digital manners to Fortnite. Common Sense Media also has a comprehensive Parent Concerns section that addresses serious topics such as tech addiction, cyber bullying, violent content, and screen time — and for those interested in the data behind the organization’s stance on kids and technology, there’s Common Sense Research. (Note: you need to create an account to gain access to full reports.)
What they say: “Created with input from experts in child psychology, early childhood education, media, and other fields, PBS Parents provides the answers you need to be your child’s first, best teacher.”
Why we love it: PBS is a familiar and comforting source of information for all parents, especially those who may have grown up with the wholesome broadcasting channel. It’s a well-rounded site that offers advice on tech- and non-tech-related issues, including education, food and fitness, and child development. Of course, we’re privy to the Children and Media section that’s organized according to media type (TV and Movies, Computers, Video Games, and Advertising). We also love the Milestones feature, which pairs specific child development stages and behavior (age three to 18) with actionable tips for parents and caregivers.
What they say: “ConnectSafely.org is a Silicon Valley, California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy, and security.”
Why we love it: As its name implies, ConnectSafely is about online safety — and the information offered reflects that. While it may be alarming to consider what to do when your teen’s sext goes viral, it’s comforting to know that advice exists on the topic. Of course, they also publish content for parents with younger children (this graph about preschoolers’ tech ability is particularly interesting), and they’ve even created a unique collection of Parent Guides that break down today’s most popular apps, games, and platforms — all of which can be viewed online or downloaded as PDF files.
What they say: “Whether you’re looking for general information related to child health or for more specific guidance on parenting issues, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find information regarding the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) many programs and activities, our policies and guidelines, our publications and other child health resources, as well as much, much more.”
Why we love it: Healthy Children is the digital home of the AAP, a group of 67,000 pediatric physicians — when they make a recommendation (e.g. no screen time for children under two), it becomes the standard. In its Media section, there’s plenty of nuts-and-bolts advice on pressing matters like how to assess violent or disturbing media content, as well as health-related topics like how to avoid pairing junk food with screen time.
What they say: “MediaSmarts is a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy. Our vision is that children and youth have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens.”
Why we love it: Media literacy — the way people of all ages navigate, share, and comprehend the information they consume online — is the focus of MediaSmarts. It’s educational in nature, which means their content can be dense, but it’s helpful nonetheless. We suggest you start with their Digital and Media Literacy Fundamentals to better understand the current tech landscape and then zone in on the Parents section for more practical advice.
Raising Digital Natives
What they say: “Raising Digital Natives is a place for parents and educators to get practical, timely, and non-judgmental advice to set our kids up for success in a digital world, and in life.”
Why we love it: The information surrounding screen time can sometimes feel daunting and dry, but Dr. Devorah Heitner offers advice that’s more personal (and personable). The Raising Digital Natives founder and author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World addresses the subject of kids and tech on her blog and also offers practical advice with her online Phonewise Boot Camp for Parents course.
Zoe & Molly
What they say: “All the components of the Zoe & Molly online website provide an engaging learning experience for students about internet safety. As the students progress through the website, their level of knowledge and safely confidence will increase.”
Why we love it: Zoe and Molly are two comic book characters with one important mission: to help kids understand the opportunities and pitfalls of the internet. The comics speak directly to kids — it’s a fun, interactive way for them to learn about online safety — but there are helpful resources for parents, too: the Teachers section is chock-full of lesson plans and other resources that can be used to help kids understand the bigger picture behind the Zoe and Molly storyline.
kidSAFE Seal Program
What they say: “The kidSAFE Seal Program is an independent safety certification service and seal-of-approval program designed exclusively for children-friendly websites and technologies, including online game sites, educational services, virtual worlds, social networks, mobile apps, tablet devices, connected toys, and other similar online and interactive services.”
Why we love it: The kidSAFE seal takes some of the guesswork out of browsing — they do the safety check for you and have developed three tiers of approvals: kidSAFE Certified, kidSAFE + COPPA Certified (meaning a site is COPPA compliant), and kidSAFE Listed (a designation for sites that were developed with children/school in mind). Their Member List is a great source for finding new and safe platforms for your kids to enjoy.
There’s a lot to know about kids and technology today. And the only way we’re going to understand it all, is if we work together. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favorite websites — so parents can stay in the know and a step ahead of their kids on all-things tech.
Photo Credits: goodluz / Shutterstock, Common Sense Media, PBS, C0nnectSafely, AAP, MediaSmarts, Raising Digital Natives, The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, kidSAFE Seal Program