Successfully navigating parenting paradoxes in the technological landscape that is modern life.

Parenting with Technology

Parenting with Technology helps parents understand the issues relating to connected devices that face families today.  We identify some of the pitfalls and present some creative ideas to deal with them in constructive, positive ways while understanding that technology is here to stay and can benefit the family if used responsibly.  It is our opinion that by teaching proper online etiquette and promoting healthy device use we can help our children and ourselves become better digital citizens who are happy, healthy and successful.

Holiday Device Survival Guide

Happy Holidays!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

So the Holidays are behind us, the gifts are opened, the wrapping paper is ready for the recycle bin, the relatives are all headed back home and your family is starting to settle back into a less-than-festive routine.  Well, as you pack up those holiday gift devices and prepare your family for the mass exodus of back to school, here are a few quick and helpful tips about all that new tech.

There are a few separate tips regarding several areas of a new device.  Packaging, accessories, and accounts.

First, packaging.  Your new devices (or those of your children as they are actually yours also…) came in a package of some type.  Microsoft, their OEM partners like Lenovo and HP, Apple and Samsung all package new devices in very specific, beautiful and important boxes.  If you received a new device, be it a tablet, a laptop, a phone or wearable this Christmas, you also got a box, a specific package with lots of info, tech specs, and bar codes on them.  These can be very important if there is a question, a problem, or a return needed for that device.  In our house, the rule is that a device is married to its package for at least 9months.  This way, if we need to contact support, get service, or heaven forbid send it back to the factory, we have the original container to do it in.  Any question that phone support may ask you should be able to be answered right off the product info printed on that box.  My recommendation is to have a bin somewhere in your home that is the designated product package bin and all new devices packaging go into it.  In the case of multiple similar devices, I label the boxes by the child's name or something similar so that I can quickly identify and match the correct box to the device in question.  This may seem like overkill, but if you ever have to return a Microsoft Surface device or an Apple iPad to the factory for repair you will be glad you did this.  About once a year I try to purge out the older boxes and recycle them, except in the cases of tech that has a higher resale value if the package is intact, like a MacBook Pro or an iPhone, which we keep as long as we have the product.

Second, Accessories.  Every device comes with SOMETHING else in the box with it, we need to give some consideration to those items as well.  Every device will have some instructions, a book, a quick start guide, some warranty cards and other paperwork.  Take these, put them in a ziplock bag, write on the bag the name of the device and file them in a safe place with the rest of your home appliance manuals.  If the device comes with a lot of little add ons or small parts, like some cameras or GoPro’s do, consider how and where you will be storing and transporting those devices and the accessories for it.  Label each part if possible, but if not at least designate a place, a bag, a case or bin that is unique to that device and put these parts in it.  Very little can dampen the mood on a happy Christmas afternoon like searching forever to find the one little part that you didn’t even see when you opened that device and now it is the only part you need to finish what you are doing with it.  You get the idea, again, for most things a ziplock bag will suffice at least temporarily until a case or place can be found.  Then there is the most important accessory of all.  Almost every device will have a cord in the box somewhere, if it is a USB cable, there will most likely be an AC to USB power adaptor.  More times than not, these are completely interchangeable however, there is that one time where a device will only work with its own accessory, so LABEL these components with the name or identifier of the device (did I mention that a Label printer can be worth its weight in gold?).  Also, a persons name can be really handy here, especially if you have a teenage daughter…  so my power blocks all say “DAD” and some say “DAD’s IPAD” or whatnot.  This way, if you do have that one fussy device that has a proprietary charger, you aren't looking all over and trying several only to not have it charge in the end.  It also helps when you can’t find it ANYWHERE but then see your daughter walk by with one JUST LIKE YOURS.  When she steals your iPhone charger, and she will, you can see the label that says DAD and take it back.  This can make your children very sad, but will keep you sane and healthy with properly charged devices far more often.  An example of proprietary accessories is this, I recently tested an HP laptop that charged via USB-C, however, HP’s charger has an ID chip in it that only lets the laptop charge off an approved HP charger cable.  I see the purpose for this, I guess, but it was very inconvenient and could have become very confusing if the charger had not been properly labeled.  Also, as an aside, that same said HP charger also happily charges any other USB-C device including my son’s drone, and therefore would have never been located again had it not been for good labeling practices in place at the time of the unboxing.

Lastly, accounts:  Almost every device, game, drone, app, and instrument that has web access this Christmas required an online account and a unique login to utilize.  I have gone over best practices in past posts, but I find it worth repeating.  Never use a single password for every account.  The companies that build these devices, especially the toys, don’t spend much securing them or their own system.  If you use the same password for the plush stuffy your kid got for Christmas as you do for your bank or your social security account, then the bad guy doesn’t have to hack the bank or the government to get your info, they only need to hack the account info for the ABC, Inc. Plush toy company and then log into your bank with the password they gain from it.  Instead create yourself a system of making a password formula that has no data that is google searchable, don’t use your birthday, your street address, your house number or cell number in your password formula.  Make the formula long, make it difficult and make it have at least one element that changes from site to site.  Then you can remember your formula, and easily access any site you need while making it much harder for hackers and virtually impossible for simple tricks to gain access to your accounts.  Write a list of all the sites you go to, including those for these new devices or toys, and write down the username and passwords, offline.  Do not make your list on a device, use a paper book and a pencil.  After you have activated these devices and toys, apps and such with a strong password that you have written down offline, show your children that will be using them how to use them.  Don’t assume your kids will just know.  This way they don’t have to guess, get locked out, call support, and waste your time and money trying to play a game or use a gift.  There is a lot more about security and digital legacy in my earlier post:  If you die tomorrow will your kids still be able to watch Netflix? A conversation about your Digital Legacy.

Also, remember, before you approve the use of any gift, game, app or such you should fully investigate it for yourself.  If you don’t feel comfortable with it, don’t let your kid use it.  It may cause a fuss, it may anger your kid, it may hurt Great Aunt Mable’s feelings, but in the end, it is your house and your family.  Only you can decide what fits your world view and family culture and values.  Play the games before your kids do and make sure they are appropriate.  I covered this thoroughly in my post: OK, so if I am not banning devices, how am I keeping my kids safe? Step One  

Now go in there, wrangle those new devices and their accessories and have an orderly and sane start to a GREAT and HAPPY 2017!