The Parent Project

Following 4 families digi-parenting experiences

Reflecting on The Parent Project

For lots of Kiwi parents, it can be hard to keep up with what our kids are doing online. So, we partnered up with four Kiwi families and their kids, to help them navigate the digital world together.

We followed their journey of discovery, as we set tasks for them to complete – from setting up a family digital agreement to checking the families’ digital footprint – and shared their learnings along the way.

Now, as our families have reached the end of The Parent Project, we asked them to reflect on their experience.

Our parents shared some interesting takeouts, here are some of the best:

  1. It’s a lot like everyday parenting. Much like everyday parenting is about helping our kids to become responsible citizens of the real world, The Parent Project helped our parents to equip their kids with the basic skills they need to become responsible digital citizens.
  2. There is a lot to learn. And it can be hard to know where to start. Working through each task gave our families an area to focus on. After completing the tasks, in particular they noted feeling more aware of the risks that their children could encounter online. As a family, they were then able to develop strategies to tackle any issues that could arise.
  3. It’s great to learn together. Most of our parents were on a learning journey as much as the kids, and being able to do this as a family provided a powerful bonding experience.

The Parent Project aimed to empower our parents to walk alongside their children as they enter the digital world. One Dad summed it up nicely:

“”“You will mess up. We will take away your device. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.”

Task 6: Harmful communication

Managing safety online
The Internet can be an inspiring and wonderful place, with endless opportunities for education and entertainment. But as we are all aware, the Internet also comes with risks and dangers. The good news is that there are ways you can manage the risks with a little bit of initial set up time, and the occasional dollop of classic parenting.

For Task 6, we asked our Parent Project families to focus on how to avoid exposure to harmful content and how to deal with it when it does happen.

Safety first:
Make sure you have safety controls set up. This guide will help you setup different devices.
Install a ‘safety button’ plugin. There is some great software out there, such as Hector’s World Safety Button™ recommended by Google for younger kids. Pressing the safety button if they see something that upsets them activates an underwater themed screensaver, commends them for making that choice, then prompts them to let a parent know.
Be transparent about the dangers online. It’s important to be open and honest about the dangers online. This way, kids know what to look out for.
What if kids see something they don’t like?
Have an action plan in place. If something does happen, it’s good for kids to have an idea about how to let a parent know. Digital contracts are great for setting expectations, and having upfront discussions with your kids about what to do if they see something that upsets them. For more info on how to deal with harmful content, check out our article
Let them know it’s not their fault. This is especially important for younger kids: It is important they know they will not be blamed when they end up in places they didn’t intend, which will help keep communication lines open.

Your family and the future of technology

For Task 5 we asked our Parent Project parents to explore the future of technology with their families and how things have changed – and are still changing.

The first part of the task involved reflecting on how far we have come thanks to technological innovations.

Our families reported a couple of discoveries – have a chat with your kids, and see if your discussion brings up any similar highlights:

  1. Technology makes life easier  Kids were surprised by how much easier we all have things now, compared to the manual processes ‘back in the day’. Wringer washing machines, paper maps, and rotary phones – with cords! – had parents and kids alike laughing at what we would do today if we didn’t have the modern tech.
  2. Access to information has changed – The thought of doing homework without the Internet as a research tool had kids puzzled. Families discussed how parents did assignments without the world wide web, and kids decided they were pretty lucky to have such easy access to tools like Google.

For the second part of the task, we got our families to look forward at some new technology.

  1. The Internet of Things (IoT) – which comes about when everyday devices are connected to the Internet. Here’s a great video of how it works.
  2. Virtual Reality describes a 3D computer generated environmentwhich is interactive and immersive. It also includes watching videos in 360°. To see what they’re like, click here.
  3. Artificial Intelligence is intelligence shown by machines or software, an incredible example of it can be seen here.

Technological innovation is only going to speed up, so it’s well worth keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon. After all, one US study even reckons 65% of primary school kids will end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet!

Task 4: All about the kids!

All about the kids!
Technology is more integrated in our children’s lives than ever before, but do we actually know what our kids are doing when they’re online?

For Task 4, we asked parents to go on a tour through their kids’ online world, and encouraged them to let the kids take the lead.

Here are a few stops we encouraged parents to take on their tour:

Let your kids be the expert, and teach you something new – It’s a great confidence booster for kids when they can teach their parents a thing or two! Whether its showing you through their favourite site, or teaching you a game, it’s a great opportunity to show interest in their online world.
Ask your kids what their favourite thing is to do online – For many of our families, regardless of age, YouTube is still a winner. Whether watching a favourite “vlogger” (that’s a video blogger), or children’s content via ‘YouTube Kids’, the video sharing site is a true one stop shop for entertainment and education – sometimes at the same time.
What have they learnt online recently? Online learning can lead to offline creativity. There is an abundance of DIY inspiration on the Internet, from cooking videos and make-up tutorials to Pinterest crafts. Turns out kids love looking for inspiration and instruction online, and then going offline to create.
Do an activity online together – Whether it’s listening to shared playlists on Spotify, researching topics for homework, or skyping a family member overseas, most of our families were already sharing online spaces in some way or other. Another idea is to try making a funny video together.

Task 3: Security audit

How security savvy is your family?

You’d have to agree that more technology can make life easier, make things more entertaining, and keep us better connected. But it can also make it tough to keep things secure and safe. New scams and viruses appear all the time; new devices pop up on your home network; and new online services and platforms turn up almost daily.

Understanding what to look out for, and having some first line protection in place, can help your family enjoy everything being connected without worry. That’s why we asked our families to do a quick safety and security audit of their devices, and to review how they use the internet at home.

Try it out for yourself here – and read on to see what our Digi-Parenting families discovered for themselves…

Keep your family safe online:

  1. Think smart to stay safe. Even the threat of scammers and fraudsters can make some people so cautious about online banking or shopping that they avoid it all together. The truth is, so long as you think smart, it can be perfectly safe. For example? You can tell if a site is secure: the url (website address) starts with ”https://”. The “S” stands for Secure, and means your usage is encrypted.
  2. Keep rules consistent when friends come over. Most of our families found their kids are pretty good at sticking to their digital agreements, including rules around safety and security. But what did show up as a problem for one family is handling things when friends come over. Make sure the rules stay the same for kids who are visiting.
  3. Beware of free WiFi. With a little bit of effort, it’s easy to keep things secure at home. But out and about? That can be trickier. Let’s say you’re sitting in a café and you connect to an open, free WiFi network – no password necessary. If you don’t know who’s behind that WiFi signal, you could be connecting to an unsecure network. People could be watching the connection, and any private or personal details you share could be at risk. Take care when you connect.
  4. Review digital agreements to ensure they are up to date. Online safety is a work in progress. Technology changes quickly – and so do the things our kids are into. Make sure your family’s digital agreement is up to date with your online activity. For example, if your family decides to change the household WiFi password monthly, remember to update this rule in the agreement.

For more security tips check out these articles: The busy parents guide to staying safe online – secure your devices and understanding cyber security.

Task 2: Checking and managing your Digital Footprint

What Size is Your Digital Footprint?
You have a pretty good idea of the places you’ve been in the real world. You might even do those “how many countries have you visited” quizzes, to see where you rank amongst your friends. But do you remember all the places you’ve been on the Internet – and what you left behind when you logged out?

We challenged our Digi-Parenting families to check themselves out online, see how far their “digital footprints” stretched, and think about how to manage that presence. Here are five things they found they all had in common – and four ways to help keep tabs on your digi-self.

Things You Could Put Your Foot In:
Old profiles:That stuff you wrote on Bebo back in the day, all three tweets from 2012, and those MySpace mistakes – unless you’ve deleted them, it’s likely they’re all still around.
A wide open front door: Relying on default Social Media privacy settings. Taking a lax approach to the tone and content of your posts. Prolific Snapchatting. And for one family, discovering unauthorised Apps attached to Mum’s Facebook login. It’s not deliberate, but it’s happening.
Comments and reviews: If they required some form of login or registration, they will still be there under your name – long after you’ve forgotten you left them. One of our families talked about replies to their comments, that included personal details!
Tag – you’re It!: Not all of your footprints will have been left by you. It’s possible you’ve been tagged in others’ photos or posts – which could be a problem if they have low privacy settings; especially if it’s a Snapchat that your “friend” took a screenshot of. But it’s not all bad: One family found some great school newsletters, sports and athletics posts about their kids.
Hey – that’s mine!: One surprise our families found was the idea that photos and ideas they posted through certain sites and Apps could be used without their express permission.
Four Steps To A Cleaner Footprint:

  1. Give your footprint a Spring Clean. Google yourself and your children – Sites, Images, Videos – and even try a reverse image search. Do it once a month if you can, or make a date to check it when the seasons change.
  2. Check your privacy settings. Many Social Media companies regularly change or update privacy settings as a matter of course. Check your Facebook, Twitter, TradeMe and other accounts to make sure you’re still set the way you think you are.
  3. Understand what you’re giving away. Explore what your favourite sharing sites plan to do with your images and posts. Flickr, Instagram, Facebook and others all have specific Terms and Conditions about who owns the content you post. One option to help protect your pictures is to use Creative Commons on your images (find out more about Creative Commons here).
  4. What Would [anyone] Say? Open a family discussion around transparency and honesty. Start with “think about what Nana / your boss / your teacher would say about your posts”. And make sure you (a) have a plan, and (b) everyone feels free to come forward, should something go “viral”.
    The thing everyone expressed in one way or another is that with some thought and a watchful eye, your family’s Digital Footprint can grow to have a big impact on the world – without anyone’s toes being stepped on.

Find out more about keeping your family safe online here.

Task 1: Create a Digital Agreement

Three top tips from four digital families

Did you know there’s a really powerful way to help manage our kids’ technology expectations, understand how we use technology, and keep our kids safe too? It’s as simple as developing your own set of digital guidelines together to create a “digital agreement” – and it’s the first task we set for our Parent Project families.

Setting up the digital agreement

We asked our four families to think about where gadgets shouldn’t be used; how to make sure they don’t get in the way of face-to-face contact; and how parents’ self-control helps their kids to manage themselves.

Our families then sat down to develop their own rules together. This way everyone had the opportunity to understand the situation, add their suggestions, and ask questions. For instance one family talked with their children about how kids could be vulnerable to strangers online, so everyone understood that the rules are there to keep them safe.

The Rules

  • Time limits: All four families agreed on a “no more tech” cut off time at the end of each day, while younger families included strict time allowances during the day too. Keeping things reasonable, most said that time limits were more relaxed outside of term time.
  • Where and when it’s appropriate to use phones: For families with younger kids, phones were only to be used at home. Older kids helped write guidelines around using phones in public – like rules around photos, and putting your phone away when socialising. When it’s time to switch off, several of our families nominated a spot where all devices were to be put before bedtime. One family added what they thought was a very important rule – “Never use tech in the toilet!”
  • The Virtual World: families with younger children made a list of websites their kids can visit, and agreed on the need for an “okay” before downloading apps and games.
  • Responsibility: All four families emphasised the importance of not letting friends use your phone, one family put the risk simply:“Don’t use other people’s devices without permission and also never let another person use your device or post from it; it will turn ugly if you do.”
  • Explore!: One family also used their agreement to explore the positive opportunities that the digital world opens up, with this rule for their daughters: “Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. …This doesn’t mean that you have to listen to Iron Maiden like Dad “suggested”.”

Three top tips for developing an agreement together:

  1. Make sure the rules apply to the whole family
  2. It’s helpful for parents to monitor time limits – kids often either don’t understand how long the set time is, or they genuinely lose track
  3. Kids are generally happy with the agreements so long as they are fair.

And finally, of our families summed up their agreement nicely with this comment:

“”“You will mess up. We will take away your device. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.”