You may be thinking of buying your child technology for a holiday gift or an upcoming milestone, but what should you keep in mind as you make that decision? Technology can be a great tool for youth to explore the world and connect with others, but it can also be a challenge to navigate.
Technology can bring your child many positive things, like being able to be more connected with their friends and family, explore their passions, or learn new skills. These are all great reasons to be thinking about a tech-related gift, but not all tech is created equal. The five questions below can help guide you to making the best decision for your family.
1. How connected is this? A lot of technology doesn’t require the internet but will have options to connect to access various features. This could sometimes cause data to be shared about your child that you might not be comfortable with. These types of connected devices sometimes don’t have the same privacy standards as laptops and phones and can be more susceptible to hacking. Check the terms and conditions to see what is shared and if wifi is necessary to use the tech. You can also see if the tech you are thinking about has been reviewed by one of the FCC’s approved organizations.
2. How was this designed? Behind every app, video game, or device, is a group of people making decisions about how that tool is used. These design decisions can inform not only how we interact with the tech, but also how we think about the world around us. Pay attention to what actions are easy to do and what actions are difficult to make sure they align with your family’s values.
3. How can I use this with my child? Having media experiences together can help you connect with and learn about your child. It also gives you a chance to start conversations about what your child is seeing and experiencing. Plan out ways that you can use and explore your child’s new tech together as a part of the gift itself. For example, if you were getting your child a Switch, include a second controller as part of the gift and play the inaugural game together!
4. What are the privacy settings? Knowing the privacy settings and how to adjust them before you gift a tech item can help you make sure your child stays as safe as possible while using their new tool. You can even adjust the privacy settings together as an activity! This is also a chance to remind your child that nothing is truly private online and that some apps will reset these settings from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to review them. If you aren’t sure how to change the privacy settings on a particular app or toy, search the web for the app name and “privacy settings”. Chances are, someone has already created a page dedicated to helping you out!
5. What experiences will this ignite? When choosing a technology gift for your child, think about what experience you want them to have and what can best give them those experiences. A smartphone can take pictures and videos, but so can a digital camera. Instant cameras are becoming increasingly popular and allow people to take photos in the moment and share them with their friends without wifi or apps. When it comes to technology, think of gifts that will let your child learn and grow by doing!