Powered up parenting: protecting kids in a tech world

Published: May. 4, 2017 at 4:38 PM EDT
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Notebook, pencil, and iPhone? The supplies our children take into the classroom today look much different than the supplies we took to class back in the day.

Technology is crucial for our future leaders in this cyber world but there is a dark side. In December, Jason Johnson allegedly abducted and molested is daughter's 15-year-old friend.

He met the Evans teen through Facebook. The same month a Texas teen shot and killed herself in front of her family after years of cyberbullying. On Your Side gives parents the tools to help protect their children online.

Tara Wood jumped in head first when she became a mother. She has seven children between the ages of sixteen and twenty months.

"For the kids there are three iPhones, iPod, and several laptops," Wood said. As a writer and blogger, she knows the importance of her children using technology.

"My older kids do use their devices a lot for school work," she said.

Wood also knows the danger of the web.

"It's not that I don't trust them it's just that the world is huge and the internet is endless black hole and not everyone is good out there."

"With my younger kids I limit their screen time," she said.

Dr. Dale Peebles, child mentalist and professor at Augusta University, agrees young children should have limited screen time.

"In those preschool years toddler and preschool years really try to focus on more quality educational content," he added.

Dr. Peebles warns too much screen time can lead to childhood obesity, sleep loss, and even depression.

Peebles tells parents come up with a family media plan before ever giving a child an iPhone or laptop.

"A media plan is an agreement that the family comes to how the media is going to be employed around the house," he explained.

The plan should include what hours a child can use the device, where it can be used (like not at the dinner table), when to turn it off and where it will be stored.

"You begin the process by using those devices in an organized setting where adults are around and the parents take an active role in monitoring a child's social media use," he advised.

"They know and are self aware and we have talked that if you put something out there on the internet it stays on the internet and doesn't go away," Wood said.

She has had the social media talk with her older kids, but still sets the parental controls for her younger children.

"Sometimes they don't even know what they're watching is inappropriate," she said. "It's scary and there are people out there that are ill willed and just sitting sitting there wanting to be mean."

The threats of online bullying, identity theft and predators are very real but Dr. John Krautheim with Augusta University's Cyber Institute believes those risks shouldn't stop children from learning and using technology. "If you aren't using technology you are going to be at a disadvantage," he said.

Dr. Krauthheim thinks parents should take advantage of technology themselves to help protect their children. "You can see what kind of messages they're sending what kind of picture they're taking you can control the time they use the devices," he said about tracking apps. He says the most important step a parent can take is to talk to their children.

"We keep the lines of communication open I try to let them know it's not that I don't trust them it's other people that we don't know that are not good," Wood said. She knows as long as the lines stay open she will know when to jump into help.

On Your Side attached two websites to help parents create a media plan as well as how to find age appropriate games, movies and apps for children.