We chat with the experts from Google about how to ensure responsible tech habits and Internet safety for our kids!
It’s amazing how fast technology is changing these days; barely a day goes by where we don’t thank our lucky stars that social media wasn’t around during our adolescence! With toddlers ever more adept at using iPads and tech-savvy teens constantly finding the next photo sharing app to evade parent monitoring, it can feel like a thankless task trying to monitor our kids’ Internet use. But never fear, mamas! The whizzes at Google have offered up some excellent advice to not only help you control your kids’ Internet use, but also encourage safe and responsible tech habits.
We recently spoke with Lucian Teo, Google’s User Education and Outreach Manager for APAC, to find out more – including what he does with his own three kids at home!
At what age do you typically see kids starting to engage with search, either on the computer or on tablets/phones? (In other words, when do parents need to start worrying about these things?!)
Every child is different, so it’s important for parents to take charge of introducing technology to them at a suitable pace, carefully pairing their curiosity for technology with the safety habits they need to inculcate.
As a father of three kids, the rule of thumb in my home is that we don’t give control to the child until they are able to understand that it is a privilege that comes with certain responsibilities. We might allow our 2-year-old to watch a video, but they’re not allowed to handle the device. When they’re older and understand the boundaries we set, like which YouTube channels they’re allowed to watch and how long for, we allow them control of the device.
Can you tell us more about Google Safe Search? Can it easily be turned on and off?
Turning on Google Safe Search helps parents to filter out mature content that may not be suitable for children. It’s easy to switch on — just go to your Settings by clicking on the cog at the top right hand side of any Google search results page, and click through to activate it, and lock SafeSearch. In future, search results will be marked with “SafeSearch on” on the upper right hand side.
Keep in mind of course that different families have set different content standards for themselves, and no filter, while helpful, will be able to remove all content parents might deem inappropriate for their children. Parents still need to be vigilant when their children use the Internet.
How can I be sure my kids are using YouTube Kids safely when they’re out of the house (on their phones or tablets)? Will they be able to extend the watch timer?
YouTube Kids was specially created for kids between 2 and 8 years old. We built it to give parents more control over what their kids watch and for how long. You can turn off the Search function if you would like to restrict your child’s experience to a more limited set of content, or even restrict them from watching certain videos and channels. A timer was built-in to help limit screen time by telling kids when it’s time to stop watching. The timer will display a friendly alert and stop the app when the session is over, so you don’t have to.
Are there child-friendly options for Gmail?
To create a Gmail account you need to be 13 years or older. For any communication app or tool, the most important thing is to teach kids about being responsible about how they use it. This means helping them understand what’s appropriate behaviour. One of the most basic things I remind my children is that if they wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, they shouldn’t email, instant-message or post it as a comment on someone’s page.
It’s also important that they know not to overshare, especially private or confidential information.
Is there a way to responsibly monitor my child’s Gmail account while also respecting his/her privacy?
In our family, privacy is always balanced with a message of intimacy. We emphasise to our children that we monitor their use of digital devices because we love them and want to ensure that nothing threatens their well-being. It is with this understanding that we keep an eye on all their communications. This is also how we’ve been able to teach them how to show respect when communicating online, address conversations that could have veered towards online bullying, and also the basics of sharing information.
It is also important for parents to share their rationale so the children understand how to make decisions for themselves. It’s easy to judge quickly without listening to what the children have to say, so be patient! Often children have a good grasp of the fundamental principles and are able to suggest even better solutions.
How can I monitor who my child video chats with via Google Duo or other apps?
While the use of online communications tools is guarded quite tightly in our household, technology has also helped our family stay close. I travel quite often for work, and video chats have helped me maintain daily contact with my children. I’m even able to read to my kids at bedtime with apps like Google Duo.
Duo is a great way to stay in touch, and the Knock Knock feature — where you can see live video of the person calling you while the phone rings — accentuates the excitement of an incoming call from a loved one. Users are only able to see live videos of the person calling via the Knock Knock feature if that person is saved as a contact in their phone.
When it comes to communication apps, I remind my children not to pick up calls or respond to messages from numbers they don’t recognize. Parents can also check call and messaging histories to make sure kids aren’t spending too much time on the phone, or chatting with strangers.