Like it or not, parents have to monitor tech use, experts say

More kids this year attend schools where laptops and tablets have replaced traditional textbooks.

Add them to the smartphones many youth carry, and that’s a lot of technology at their fingertips. Plus it means one more thing that parents need to learn about and monitor.

Internet predators, easy access to pornography and the role that tech plays in bullying and other negative interactions between students means it is ripe for abuse, according to teachers and faculty members who specialize in the field.

“Parents need to realize that their kids’ tech use is their responsibility,” said Wes Fondren, associate professor of communications at Coastal Carolina University in Conway. “Just like alcohol or anything else, technology can be abused, and parents need to recognize there are very real consequences to unmonitored and unlimited technology use.”

Here are some tips to help your kids handle technology in a positive way:

Limit screen time.

Remember that students already spend a lot of time in front of screens at school. At home, make sure they interact with family members and friends, exercise and take part in other activities.

Fondren said experts have determined that two hours of non-classroom screen time a day should be the maximum for students from the ages of five to adolescence. Children under 5 should be exposed to an hour or less a day.

Parents should note, this also includes time in front of the TV.

Install software filters and take other precautions to monitor what kids can access.

Chip Clary, a computer science teacher at St. Paul the Apostle School in Spartanburg, encourages parents to keep computers in common spaces at home so they can easily see what their children are searching and looking at online, and regularly check browser histories on tablets or smart phones to see what kids are accessing.

Monitor social media, email or gaming accounts.

It is a parent’s choice whether or not to allow kids to have social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram and other platforms are how many kids stay in touch, and many school and church activity leaders use social media to communicate and make announcements.

Tracy Hamner, principal at St. Anthony School in Florence, said social media can be a good thing, but kids must have limits. It is important that parents have access to these accounts so they can monitor what children are posting and who they interact with, he said.

“Social media and online gaming are faceless environments, and there are so many opportunities for just anybody out there to talk to kids, learn where they are and figure out who they are,” Hamner said. “That’s the most dangerous thing about them.”

Take time to share technology with your kids.

Learn about the games they like to play and play a round with them, watch them as they work on an educational app, or watch a favorite show or video together online and discuss it. Fondren said this helps build trust between parent and child when it comes to technology, and also is a way to make “screen time” a shared experience.