How to Help Kids Build Strong Digital Habits Before Summer Slips Away

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Few seasons are more important to the parent-child bond than summer. The days are longer, fewer activities are crowding the family calendar, and if we’re lucky, we can grab a few more quiet moments with one another.

So how will you spend these last few, magical weeks of summer before the frenzy of a new school year arrives? We hope it includes a lot more fun and taking time to connect with your kids about what’s going on in their online world.

Thanks to the results of a recent survey, we have some clear and current insight into the digital issues most important to parents.*

Survey: Top digital concerns for parents

  • Knowing which apps my children are using 66.67%
  • Knowing which sites my children are visiting 65.83%
  • Knowing what my children are posting online 62.50%
  • Being able to put parental controls on my children’s smartphone, tablet and/or computers 62.50%
  • Keeping photos of my children/ family safe 60.83%
  • Monitoring and/or limiting the amount of time my children spend online 55.83%
  • My children’s use of social media 55.00%
  • My children’s use of texting 52.50%

Before summer slips away, we challenge you (as well as ourselves!) to bring up these critical conversations with your kids. Doing so will help to equip them and give you peace of mind as your family heads closer to the new school year.

5 Digital Concerns & Solutions

  1. App Safety: Look at the apps on your child’s phone (don’t forget to look for decoy apps). Also, ask your child questions about his or her favorite apps and download and explore the app yourself. Analyze the content and culture. Check app reviews for potential dangers. Are the accounts your child follows on the app age-appropriate? Are the comments and conversations positive? Does your child know his or her followers? Is your child posting appropriately? Follow your gut, parent: If you believe the app is harmful, discuss the reasons, and delete the app.
  2. Track Online Activity: One of the most common questions we get at McAfee from parents is, “Where do I go to find out information about what my kids are doing online?” Simply put: You go where they go. Start with their phones. Depending on the age of your child, you as a parent can determine how frequently and how deeply you want to dive into your child’s apps, direct messages, and texts. An invasion of privacy? Perhaps, depending on your point of view and parenting style. But if you are genuinely concerned about your child’s online activity, then some form of monitoring is a must. Let your kids know you are monitoring their activity and why — there’s no need to spy. A few basics: Google your child’s name, check their PC online history log, agree on weekly phone checks, and open and explore phone apps. Sound like a lot of work? It is. The more efficient way of tracking online activity is using parental controls, which helps you set limits on sites visited, apps used, hours online, and location tracking. A comprehensive software solution can be a game-changer for parents who are exhausted with phone tracking routines and arguments.
  3. Time Limits: We know that excess screen time can lead to physical and emotional issues in kids, but reducing family screen time online can be a challenge. Cutting back takes consistent effort such as family media use rules, establishing phone-free zones like dinnertime, movie time, and family outings. Turning off notifications, deleting tempting apps, and having a phone curfew can significantly impact online time as can the use of parental controls.
  4. Smart Photo Sharing: Be mindful of the risks of sharing photos online and discuss them with your kids. Remind your child to lock privacy settings on each app, to only share photos with known friends, to turn off geo as well as photo tagging, and to never share inappropriate images online.
  5. Safe Texting: When it comes to texting, parents often want to know how to curb the amount of texting, and if the content is harmful. To help curb texting: Teach kids self-control and remind them that they don’t have to respond to friends right away. Challenge them to turn off text notifications and only check their phone at set times. Reduce texting anxiety by enforcing a phone curfew, so kids don’t text into the night or wake up to text conversations. On the topic of content: If you know there’s an issue — get equipped so you can respond. Understand what’s going on with group chat conflict, cyberbullying, and the texting slag kids use.

While monitoring and parental controls are two of the best tools parents have, we know that equipping kids to be safe online comes down to two things: A strong parent-child connection and engaged parenting. This will look different in the context of every family but might include creating age-appropriate family ground rules for online activity (and enforcing them!), open communication, modeling a healthy digital balance, and taking the time to listen to your child and what’s going on in his or her life and heart.

* McAfee commissioned Response Marketing to conduct a survey in the U.S. in April 2019.

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