Top tips for kiwi digi-kids
5 to 7 year olds might enjoy catching up with their favourite TV and cartoon characters on websites like Nick Jr or Hairy Maclary, for example.

On the move, parents can keep kids entertained with games like Xbox or Playstation and by playing age-appropriate apps like SmackTalk or Top Dog together on a smartphone.

Even if they’re just doing something for fun, these kinds of devices and websites can help to teach younger children important skills, such as how to type, how to count, how to improve their hand and eye co-ordination, and how to read.
Age 5-7 simple checklist:
Sit with your child and get involved when they’re using the computer and other devices like games consoles – make it fun!
Set up SafeSearch on your child’s computer – but remember, they might not be 100% effective and they aren’t a substitute for parental supervision.
Don’t assume that your child is only accessing age-appropriate services and websites – they could be influenced by older siblings to go on to sites like YouTube (which have a minimum age limit of 13) or they might have figured out how to use your mobile.
Start teaching them why it’s important to keep their personal information to themselves.
Stay in control of their screen time and don’t be pressured into letting your child use technology like mobiles or games consoles if you don’t think they’re mature enough.
Encourage them to come to you if anything they see online worries or upsets them. For young children, the internet and mobile devices are simply fun – sometimes educational, but mostly fun.
Work together to create your own Digi-Family agreement, with rules you can all agree to.

Helping children (and their parents!) to enjoy their new mobile world
So you’ve decided together it’s the right time to get a phone for your young person to take out into the world. As our partners The Parenting Place say in their article, Is your child ready for a cell phone? “You can and should set some limits around cell phone use. Let them know that even if they buy the phone and pay the bills themselves… its use is still subject to your house rules.”

Reasonable rules might include:

Phones off at mealtimes and after 9pm.
No phones in bed.
Consider a ‘charger basket’ where everyone’s phones go at night.
Let them know that cell phones (and internet use) are a privilege, not a right.
You reserve the right to review their inbox, outbox and address book.
That last point comes with a clear parenting point of view: that privileges come from trust, and trust comes from transparency. That’s why it’s vital to earn each other’s trust, ideally by setting up expectations in advance. Here’s some advice that might come in very handy:

Set up an agreement, check it regularly. Download an example of a new-phone-in-the-family agreement from The Parenting Place: Our cell phone contract. Work through your agreement as a team, with your child. Be upfront and honest about what you all expect, and agree to stick to it.
Help your teen or pre-teen keep themselves safe, by setting up smartphone controls, and learning about how to manage sexting and cyber bullying.
Make sure everyone can stay in touch. Set up your family’s mobile numbers as BestMate numbers on your home phone so calls to them won’t be charged
If they’re near driving age, remind them – frequently – that it’s a really bad idea (as well as illegal) to use their phone while driving. Encourage them to use tools like Drive Safe
And don’t forget to have some fun! Set them up with some great apps for kids!

From access control to Wi-Fi, we’ve got all the jargon, busted.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the technical terms you’re likely to come across. But as you know, things change pretty fast in the digital age, so we’d love your help to keep this list current. Add terms of your own in the community section below.

  • Access control / filter: A bar that is put in place by e.g. an internet or mobile provider to prevent access to certain content
  • Application (app): A piece of software, often designed to run on smartphones and other mobile devices
  • Bluetooth: A way of exchanging data over short distances between mobile devices
  • Browser: Allows access to the Web (e.g. Google Chrome or Internet Explorer)
  • Burn: The process of copying files (eg music) from your computer onto a CD
  • Cloud computing: Software services and applications that are provided via the internet rather than installed on your computer (e.g. iCloud)
  • Coding: Another word for computer programming
  • Cookie: A piece of text stored on your computer by a Web browser that remembers information about you, such as websites you’ve visited
  • Crowdsourcing: A way of outsourcing tasks to a group of people online
  • Digital footprint: The trail you leave from digital activities and interactions, such as Web searches and uploaded photos
  • Drag and drop: Where a virtual object is selected and moved to a different location
  • Encryption: The security process of making electronic data unreadable to anyone without the ‘key’
  • Geo-tagging: Where geographical identification data is added to things like photos or online messages via a GPS device, such as a smartphone
  • GPS (Global Positioning System): A global navigation satellite system used for things like in-car navigation
  • Hacker: Someone who breaks into other people’s computers
  • Hackathon: A ‘hacking marathon’ during which computer programmers work together intensively (e.g. non-stop for 24 hours) on the development of new software
  • IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity): A unique number on your mobile, usually printed inside the battery compartment
  • In-app purchase: Additional content and features available for purchase once you’re using an app
  • IP address (Internet Protocol address): A unique number that identifies where you’re accessing the internet from
  • ISP: Internet Service Provider
  • Malware: Malicious software, such as viruses and worms, that infiltrate computers
  • Memory stick: A portable device for storing data and transferring it between devices
  • MP3: MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 – a common format for digital music files
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P): A network on which users can share files, such as music & movies; often illegally
  • Phishing: Unsolicited emails or texts sent in an attempt to get personal information (e.g. passwords and credit card details) from you
  • PIN (Personal Identification Number): A way of locking your mobile and other devices
  • Plug-in: A set of software components that add capabilities to a larger software application (e.g. a video plug-in in a Web browser)
  • Premium rate (or phone-paid service): A paid mobile service (e.g. ringtone downloads or competition entries)
  • Rogue app: A piece of malicious software disguised as a mobile Web application
  • Spam: Unsolicited email or text messages
  • Spyware: A type of malicious software that collects information about you without your knowledge
  • Stream ripping app: A way of saving MP3 files from streamed music on the internet on to a computer
  • Tablet: A mobile computer, such as the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab
  • Tag: A way of assigning a piece of information or an image to a particular person
  • Wi-Fi: Broadband without wires

How to set up smartphone controls.
Smartphones are a big part of your child’s increased independence. Here’s how to keep on top of their mobile lives.

Parental Controls are called ‘Restrictions’ on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Restrictions stop you from using certain features and applications, block access to adult websites, or only allow access to a list of permitted websites.
Tap Settings > General > Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. You can use the passcode to change your settings or turn off Restrictions. If you lose or forget your Restrictions passcode, you will need to perform a factory restore to remove it – so make a note of it!
Using restrictions: You can restrict access to applications and features, including Safari, camera (also disables FaceTime), iTunes Store, iBooks Store, installing apps, deleting apps, in-app purchases, Siri, AirDrop, and CarPlay. Some apps allow “extras” to be purchased within the game or activity, using your iTunes Store account, without explicit authorisation. Learn how to use restrictions to protect your iTunes Store account from unintentional or unauthorised purchases. Follow Apple’s instructions here.
Content types: You can prevent access to specific content types including ratings (select the country in the ratings section to automatically apply the appropriate content ratings for that region), Music and Podcasts, Movies, TV shows, Books, apps, Siri, Websites, and the time necessary before a password is required to purchase content.
Privacy settings: You can prevent changes to privacy settings, including location services, contacts, calendars, reminders, photos, Bluetooth sharing, microphone, Twitter, Facebook, and advertising.
Settings and accounts: You can prevent changes to settings and accounts, including accounts, Find My Friends, cellular data use, background app refresh, and volume limit.
Game Center: You can restrict features within Game Center, including multiplayer games and adding friends.
Manage your child’s account: If your kids are over 13 or have accounts through the Apple ID for Students programme, you may want to explore the possibility of allowing them to make purchases from iTunes using iTunes Gifts or a monthly allowance.
How to control the type of apps downloaded to the phone:

First, click on Google’s Play Store app to launch it. It’s pre-installed on all Android phones.
In the top right-hand corner of the screen, there are three small blocks sitting on top of each other. Click on them to reveal a drop-down menu, then choose ‘Settings’.
Now, under the ‘User Controls’ menu, you’ll find an option for ‘Content filtering’ – this lets you choose a maturity level for the apps you’ll be able to download – they’re rated for ‘Everyone’, ‘Low maturity’, ‘Medium maturity’, high maturity’ or ’Show all apps’. Once you’ve made your choice, only apps you’ve deemed appropriate can be downloaded to the phone.
Set a password for app purchases.
Android’s default setting requires you to enter a password before downloading an app. To change this go to the ‘user controls’ menu and click on ‘Require password for purchases’, You’ll get three options for when a password is needed to buy apps: ‘For all purchases through Google Play on this device’, ‘Every 30 minutes’, or ‘Never’.

Prevent apps from revealing your location.

Click on the applications icon at the bottom right of your phone’s home screen.
From the ‘Settings’ menu, choose ‘Location and Security’.
Choose ‘Off’ to prevent apps from revealing your location.
You might also be interested in How to: Set controls on Social Media

How much time should kids be allowed to spend online?
Screen time is really important to young people. After all, it’s a huge part of their social life. Just as kids of the 1970s and 80s would spend hours hogging the family landline, kids of today are spending that time chatting online.

But being a digi-savvy parent means having a chat about screen time, and setting a few expectations.

Things to discuss include:

how long they’re allowed on the device, and when (eg after homework and jobs are done)
what kind of websites they can visit
which games they’re allowed to play
and how much money they can spend on things like texts, calls, downloads and apps.
Work the rules out together, and you’ll have a better chance of everyone sticking to them. Consider putting a digital agreement in place when your child gets new a device.
Managing screen time: how much is too much?
Young people seem to be spending hours on the internet, their mobiles and games consoles. So it can be difficult to know what’s okay, and how much is too much.

There is no golden rule or magic formula – some experts say two hours a day should be the maximum, others say it depends on what your child is actually doing online.

If your child is doing well in school, playing sport or other online hobbies, has friends, and seems happy and healthy, you probably have the balance about right.

“”“For those that say boys can’t multitask, they have not seen my son use Facebook, text friends and watch TV all at the same time. I am very aware of the importance of limiting his screen time to bring balance to his life and to encourage other activities. I also have to be clear that TV and games on his phone are included in his allocated screen time, rather than on top of his screen time. We have drawn up an agreement which has been a really useful ally and it means that if he wants more screen time there is a process in place for him to earn that.” – Zane
Setting and enforcing time limits is never easy – especially when you add teenage emotions into the mix! But part of being a digi-parent is being able to enforce rules despite any negative reaction you might receive.

Here’s Dave from The Parenting Place with some tips to help manage screen time in your house.

7 simple ways to keep screen time in check:
Pay attention to how much time your child spends online and what they are doing. Is it increasing rapidly or interfering with their offline life?
Remember the rules apply to you too, Mum and Dad! Don’t be checking your email over dinner if you’ve told the kids no texting at the table. Kids are sensitive to hypocrisy.
Recognise any underlying problems that may be supporting internet addiction. Is your child feeling left out at school or going through distress in another area of their life? They could be using the internet to cope.
Modify the time your child spends online step by step. Make a commitment to turn off devices at the same time each night, or instigate a family ‘charging basket’ where devices have to sleep at night. You could also set limits on using electronic devices until after chores are completed.
Organise offline activities and opportunities to balance out time in front of a screen.
Get support from partners and other family members. The more face-to-face relationships your child enjoys, the less they will need to turn to the internet for social interaction. Find common interest groups such as a sports team, music class or club.
Try using a digi agreement to put some guidelines in place.
Obsessive internet use.
Are you really concerned about your child’s internet use? According to leading US psychiatrist Dr Jerald Block, there are four signs that could point to obsessive internet use:

Excessive use – losing track of time or neglecting to eat or sleep.
Withdrawal – e.g. feelings of anger, tension or depression.
Tolerance – wanting a better computer or more hours online.
Negative repercussions – e.g. arguments, lies, isolation and tiredness.
Don’t panic if your teenager is showing some or all of these signs. They are probably being a normal teenager. Talk to your teenager to find out whats going on.

You can seek help here.

Do you know your net lingo from your text speak?

The key to protecting your child online is to equip yourself with a basic understanding of the things they do and say on the internet. Here are a few acronyms to get you started.

  • ADR: Short for ‘address’. Be careful and check your child isn’t sharing personal details online.
  • AF: Short for ‘as f*ck’. Often used in a positive context like “Cool AF”.
  • ASL: Stands for ‘age, sex, location’. This could mean your child is using an anonymous chat room.
  • BAE: Short for ‘before anyone else’ usually used as a term of endearment.
  • DM: Direct Message. Often used as a request – “DM me!” – to take a conversation out of a ‘public’ domain (like Facebok wall) and into ‘private’ (a private message).
  • Catfish: Meeting someone online, then meeting in person and discovering they aren’t who they say they are. They are the Catfish.
  • Fleek/On fleek: This means perfect, “Her outfit was on fleek.”
  • FML: F— my life – a term of frustration.
  • FOH, GTFO: These stand for “F— Outta Here” and “Get The F— Out.” They both are terms used to dismiss whatever is being referenced.
  • FOMO: Fear of missing out – often posted in response to what other people are up to, as a self-deprecating joke at one’s own jealousies and insecurities.
  • FTW: Started as a gaming acronym, For The Win means cool or good.
  • Ghosting: The act of ceasing communication suddenly. “I loved him but he ghosted me.”
  • I’m Out or #ImOut: Just like in a game of cards, when an opponent has such a great hand that you throw down your cards and say “I’m out”, this is basically a way of relaying the fact that a user thinks something someone has posted is so insane, ridiculous, awesome or offensive that the other player wins.
  • IMO/IMHO: In my opinion / In my humble opinion.
  • IRL: Stands for ‘in real life’ – worrying if your child is using it in the context of meeting someone they have met online, i.e. MIRL (‘meet in real life’) or LMIRL (‘let’s meet in real life’).
  • Netflix and Chill: ‘Hook up’ as Netflix runs in the background.
  • NVM: Text speak for never mind.
  • OH or RLRT: These stand for “overheard” or “Real-Life Retweet” and are used to reference something that a user has overheard in their real life. They are generally used in reference to shocking, odd or funny snippets of overheard conversations.
  • POS or MOS: Means ‘Parents over shoulder’ or ‘Mum over shoulder’. Similarly, CD9 means ‘code nine’, which implies parents are around; or KPC, which stands for ‘keep parents clueless’.
  • PRON: A deliberate misspelling of ‘porn’, to try and get round a web search being detected by automatic filtering system.
  • RT: Short for “retweet”, which means you didn’t write the tweet yourself, you are sharing someone else’s tweet. RT is placed at the start of the text you intend to share.
  • Ship: Short for a romantic relationship. “I see a ‘ship developing between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.”
  • SMH: Shake my head, meaning something is shocking, or you’re looking at something with shame or disbelief.
  • TMI: Too much information – also known as over-sharing. Some things are better left unsaid!
  • TBH: To be honest, a common text and email acronym, but can also be used before an “honest” viewpoint on images or comments on blogs/forums.
  • #: The hashtag symbol works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a way of grouping and identifying posts with the same subject or theme. Try looking up a few of the following hashtags and you’ll start to get an idea.
  • #FF: Follow Friday is a Twitter hashtag with the aim of drumming up more followers for someone on Twitter. For example, if you want to support a musician, politician, or anyone else you think is interesting, simply tweet a message listing their username (as in @username) along with the #FF hashtag. This is usually done in list form, so others who trust that person’s judgment can easily start following a bunch of interesting new accounts.
  • #ICant, #ICantEven #Cryin #ImCrying and #Dead: These hashtags, and similar variations of them, are all a little bit misleading, but once you get one you can pretty much understand them all. Basically, when someone posts #ImDead, #Crying, #ICant or another similar hashtag, it means that something is hilarious, or very shocking.
  • #TBT: Throwback Thursday is a Twitter, Instagram and Facebook hashtag, which has become a fun opportunity for people to share photos and info that is a “throwback” to an earlier time. For instance, on Instagram, posting a really old picture of yourself, or on Twitter telling a short quip about something in your past. This is a fun way for people to learn a little bit more about each other, and to reminisce about the past.
  • #YOLO: This is an abbreviation for “You Only Live Once.” It can be interpreted in a number of ways, but most often indicates an activity that shows someone is living on the edge. But things change fast online, and these days it tends to be used more sarcastically.

“”“My teenage daughter is very connected socially and has her own blog, instagram and snapchat etc. I have asked her what different hashtags she uses mean and then as a bit of a joke between us I will slip those into the occasional text like #Ibettergoforarun (attached to a picture of an ice cream). I am careful I don’t overuse it but I think it makes her feel I get her more” – Maria

How to keep your kids safer when they’re messaging.

Just when you’ve got texting sussed, everyone’s switched to messenger. New apps come along and become popular very quickly so stay involved to know what your children are using – Check out some of today’s most popular apps listed at the bottom of the page.

Instant messaging (sometimes called IM) is a blend of email, webcam or chat that you can send to someone in real-time via the internet. You can use the computer or tablet, but the channel of choice for modern teens is the smartphone.

Facebook Messenger is a great choice for parents too, because you can see whether or not they’ve read your message, even if they haven’t replied yet.

With instant messaging, the same common sense safety rules apply as in other digital worlds. Check the privacy settings are appropriate, and talk to your child about being digi-savvy. That means not using their real name on a public profile, never adding a location to messages or photos, and never accepting a follower or friend whom they don’t know in real life.

It’s also worth remembering that many messaging apps work on multiple devices, so don’t think that your child can’t chat to their friends just because you’ve taken away their mobile!

Remind young people that messaging may feel like a private chat, but it’s not. Children write and respond fast and the images, acronyms and emoticons they use can lead to miscommunications and the wrong people viewing messages. Encourage them to stop and think for a second each time they hit ‘send’.

Simple instant messaging safety tips.

  1. If they’re using chat rooms, choose a non-identifiable, non-gender-specific screen name – and keep it clean.
  2. Avoid giving out personal details, such as your real name or email address.
  3. Don’t accept files or downloads from people you don’t know, including URLs.
  4. Be extra careful with any contact request from friends of friends or people you don’t know.
  5. Never arrange to meet someone IRL (In Real Life) or reveal your actual location.
  6. Learn how to save copies of your conversations. Use the screenshot key, or Apple key, Shift and 3.
  7. Don’t send mean messages or incite others to either. Remember messages you send are permanent and cannot be deleted.
  8. Talk to your kids about how you expect them to behave online. This can also include the type of language you expect them to use or not to. Use the “In our family we…” statement.

The top messaging services.

A social network where people can ask each other questions, anonymously. The settings can be changed so people can’t ask questions without identifying themselves. There’s a ‘report’ abuse button. Children must be over 13 to use it.

Facebook Messenger

Lets users message each other for free via the Facebook site or a mobile app. It’s a great choice for parents to communicate with kids, because you can see a little message that says ‘Delivered’ or ‘Read’ when they’ve received or read your message.

Group Text

An app that sends mass texts (on iPhone) or mass iMessages (on all devices) to everyone on a list (like everyone in your family, for instance). Once you create a list, you no longer have to select contacts one-by-one for a group message. Just tap on the list or group name and you’re ready to send.


A chat service designed specifically for smartphones, that uses usernames rather than phone numbers.


Free photo-sharing app where users decide how long the image will live (1-10 seconds) after it’s viewed. But – and this is very important – the image can still be captured by taking a screenshot ,or downloaded using a special app. Make sure your kids realise nothing is truly ‘private’. You have to be over 13 to use Snapchat.


Viber offers free texting, calling and photo messages between other Viber users.


WhatsApp is a mobile messaging app where users can create groups and send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. It’s currently free of advertising.


Another smartphone-specific chat service that uses voice messages, texts, and images. It also allows group chats.


Another anonymous social network, YikYak works by allowing people to post anonymous updates that can then be viewed by people within a 16 Km radius. To support keeping the App out of schools, the YikYak team have developed “GeoFences” to limit usage of the app in schools. There is an age limit of 17 and over to use the app, viewers also can report inappropriate posts to be removed.

This is by no means a definitive list – new chat services are popping up all the time, so the advice as always is to stay involved with what your child is up to and what services they’re using. Bear in mind that many kids also chat while gaming, using the in-game chat services. Chat is everywhere!

Social networking sites are the new playground for this generation.
For most young people, it’s hard to imagine a life without social networking sites. They’re expressing thoughts and feelings online and keeping in touch with friends and family nar and far. Or showcasing work and sharing ideas with a global audience that once seemed impossible to achieve. And it’s a huge part of their social lives.

Many parents tell us they only join social networking sites to keep up with what their kids are up to – until they discover it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family overseas and become prolific users themselves!

But there are some potential risks and challenges that parents should be aware of – such as cyber bullying, excessive use of technology, identity theft, online grooming, and managing reputation. And don’t forget, your children need to be at least 13 to have a social media account.

Of course, just when you’ve figured out Facebook, you’ll find new social networking sites are popping up all the time. How many of these sites are your kids using?

Yik Yak
Be aware that social networking doesn’t just happen on the obvious sites. Are your kids sharing comments, content and ideas on community sites like Scratch and TinkerCad, or playground sites like Animal Jam?

“”“I made an agreement with my son that we would both join Facebook together when he reached the site’s required age of 13. It was challenging for him not to be on Facebook especially when many of his friends were but as a mother I believed that we should observe the rules set by the social media experts. What was great was that we learnt to use Facebook together and he quickly became the expert in the house helping me upload photos or post articles, which he loves.” – Bianca
Dave from The Parenting Place has some great tips on conversations to have with your teen when they’re ready to have a social media account.

Whichever social sites you’re into, the same basic safety rules remain the same. There’s one overarching rule, and three clear guidelines.

The golden rule of social media – protect your identity.
Advise your child or children to avoid using their real name as their username in social media, at least until they’re old enough to manage their own identity safely.
Make sure you and they both know not to share locations when sharing pictures. Many smartphone Apps will try to do this automatically.
Teach them not to accept followers they don’t know. Social networking (for younger children, especially) should be about connecting with friends – not amassing followers.
Check and re-check that everyone knows how to find and use the privacy controls provided with each site or App.
3 great guidelines for enjoying Social Media:
Kindness: Teach kids to be kind online. Remind them to think about how the other person might feel. It’s also good to discuss what they should do if they come across others being cruel or doing anything that doesn’t feel right. Cyber bullying ends when bystanders become upstanders.
Sharing: Kids should also be aware that photos they send of themselves can be forwarded and saved. Remind them that if they are sharing photos of other people, they should think about how that might make the other person feel and should ask permission first. It’s also crucial to make clear to children what type of information should not be shared on social media, including their address, school, phone number or email address. Help them share and enjoy – download this poster designed to step them through a thought process to follow before sharing images online.
Content: For kids who are media savvy and have their own blog or even YouTube channel, remember that online seldom means private. They should automatically assume that anyone they write about will one day read their words or watch their videos – so no mean comments about teachers, parents, friends or schoolmates. Remind them that everything they put online is there forever.
How to control your content on social networking sites.
No matter which social networking sites you use, you’re always creating a ‘digital footprint’. Anything you write, post, or upload will be online forever. That’s a really long time!

On Facebook: Limit posts to be seen by ‘friends’ and not ‘public’. Allow messages from ‘friends only’. And make sure ‘approve tags’ is enabled (go to Facebook Settings – Timeline & Tagging). ) – this allows you or your child to see any message against which they’ve been “tagged”, and approve or decline it before that tag is seen by anyone else.
On Twitter: Click ‘Protect My Tweets’ so only approved users can see them.
On YouTube: Sign in to turn on safety mode and keep it locked on. Make your uploaded videos private by selecting ‘Edit Video’, then adjust the ‘Broadcast and Sharing Options’. If your teen has an account, you can make it ‘Unlisted’ so their account will not show up in search results. Only people who have the address for their account page can find his or her videos.
On Instagram: In the ‘Edit Your Profile’ section, scroll down and change the ‘Posts Are Private’ feature to ‘ON‘ to make it less likely that your photos will be reposted elsewhere.
On Snapchat: Snapchat has two privacy settings, one for who can send you Snaps and another for who can see your Stories.
For Who Can Send Me Snaps: You have two privacy options: “Everyone” and “My Friends.”
For Who Can View My Story: You have three privacy options: “Everyone,” “My Friends,” and “Custom.”
Social networks tend to change their rules around privacy quite frequently, so it’s important to check their websites for the most up-to-date instructions.

How to set digital boundaries and apply your parenting skills to the digital world.
Digital technology was designed to bring us closer together, by making it easier to connect with each other. But it’s up to us to use it the right way. It’s not ideal if everyone is tapping away on separate devices, ignoring each other – or adding stress to family situations, like texting when it’s time for dinner or playing games instead of getting ready for school.
With a bit of consciousness, a sense of fun, and your own family agreement, you can get the most out of being a super-connected digi-family.
When it comes to setting digital boundaries, the key message is to think of technology ‘as well as’, not ‘instead of’, family life.

First, be a digital role model
You can be sure your children are watching your digital habits when it comes to online safety and balance, so make sure you practice what you preach! Juggling work and time with the kids can be tough, but if you can try to find some time when no one in the family is using technology, that would be a good way to show that it IS possible! Put down your laptop or mobile when you’re eating dinner or watching TV together – if they see you constantly emailing, texting or on Facebook at home, they might be less accepting of the boundaries you set for them.

Make a digi-family agreement
It’s a good idea to set out a plan that you all agree to. There’s a great example from The Parenting Place at the bottom of this page, as well as links to some templates you can use to get started.
Lots of families have a dinnertime rule of ‘no tech at the table’, as well as ruling out specific and times and places, you can also work out a daily screen time limit that works best for your family.
You might want to think about the age your kids can sign up to social media, agree whether their mobile phone usage counts towards their daily screen time allowance, or decide when and where to create no-phone-zones for family time.

Wondering how much screentime is right for you? Try this fun and interesting exercise. Draw up a ‘technology timesheet’ and get everyone to record the hours they’re spending in front of a screen. That means TV, computers, mobiles, video games, and tablets. When you’ve monitored it for a week or two, sit down together and decide whether you need to make some changes to your screen time routine.

How can our family stay connected with each other when we’re so connected to technology?
Showing our kids that we’re a part of their online world makes them more likely to come to us if they need help or advice. And removing technical barriers to communicating goes a long way, too.

Got a pre-schooler obsessed with dinosaurs? Look up some pictures together online, choose a few to print, and make a poster or a scrapbook of their favourites.
Daughter learning ballet? Search for clips of famous ballerinas performing, or watch an online tutorial on how to perfect that arabesque.
Teenager all about gaming? Get them to teach you how to play (and be prepared to lose!)
Struggling to get your teen’s attention? Text them to say dinner’s ready – or just to say hi – even if they’re in the same room.
Family members living overseas? Get your kids to record a funny or creative video message to send to them.
When it comes to social networking, privacy settings are a must – but it’s also a great idea to be ‘friends’ with your kids so you can stay part of their world.
Consider joining a shared family mobile plan like Red Share where everyone can always keep in contact with Unlimited calling & Txt. You also share one mobile data pool so your family can always be connected.
Make sure you can call each other whenever you want. Simply set up your family’s mobile numbers as “BestMate” numbers on your home account and you won’t be charged for calls to those numbers. The BestMate service is free on Unlimited Broadband data and Home Phone plans.
If your digi-family finds itself running out of broadband data, you might want to look at moving to a Vodafone Unlimited Broadband data plan. That way, there will always be enough broadband data at home for everyone in the family to do what they need to do. Unlimited Broadband helps avoid arguments about usage and needing to buy additional data bundles.
“My husband and I recently went on a trip overseas for a week and left our children with their grandparents. Technology helped ease the guilt because it enabled us to connect with them each day. We would send them pics, and say goodnight each day over video calling. It enabled us to maintain a small sense of routine and consistency for the kids, even if we were 5,000 Kms away.” – Susan

5 simple tips for a happy digi-family

  1. Set clear rules and boundaries for the digital world – e.g. how long they’re allowed on the computer, or what kind of online extras/downloads they can buy.
  2. Make the most of tools like Parental Controls and SafeSearch to help prevent them accessing inappropriate content – but remember, they’re not a substitute for parental supervision.
  3. Keep track – consider signing up to a shared family mobile plan like Red Share so you get a breakdown of the families calls & txt and how much data everyone is using.
  4. Lights out! Phones and laptops in the bedroom are too much of a temptation for texting or playing games late at night. One idea is a family ‘charging basket’ where all devices have to stay overnight. Another idea that some families find useful is agreeing to Mum or Dad changing the Wi-Fi password at a set time every day, to bring ‘tech time’ to an end. The new password can be given out when ‘tech time’ begins again. Learn how to easily change your password in minutes here.
  5. Keep talking. Make sure your kids know they can come to you at any time to talk about anything that has made them feel uncomfortable – but don’t wait ‘til you’re concerned about something.
    Create your own digi-family agreement
    Technology agreements are a great way to set boundaries and expectations right from the start. Here’s an example from The Parenting Place – you might like to come up with your own.
    In our family:

We ask before we use the computer or games console.
We let our parents know our passwords – but no one else.
We don’t go on any new websites or play any new games without Mum or Dad’s permission.
We agree to get off the computer or games console as soon as our time limit is up.
We never give out personal information – such as our last name, address or telephone number – on a website.
We tell an adult if we see something on screen that makes us feel uncomfortable or scared.
We have rules about how, when and where we can use our mobile (e.g. switching it off at school and after bedtime).
We understand the house rules are to protect us and keep us safe.
Download yours from The Parenting Place here:

Our cell phone contract
Using the internet
Gaming contract
Kids of all ages are into different things online check out our age guides to see what might be new and in your kids’ online world.

What Are Under-5’s into?
What’s My 5-7 Year Old In To
What’s My 8-12 Year Old In To
What’s My 13-14 Year Old In To
What’s My 15+ Year Old In To
You might also be interested in our articles on How to: Set controls on Social Media and How to: Set controls on Smart Phones.