FamilyBase: a tool for 21st-century parents
Child online safety expert Dr. David Walsh explains why Verizon FamilyBase® is a smart tool for modern parents.
"I want my daughter to take advantage of her smartphone, but I worry about how she's using it. She was texting at 3 a.m. recently. It's impossible for me to keep track."
"The teachers at the high school don't enforce any of their cell phone policies, and I know my son is texting, tweeting and surfing when he's supposed to be paying attention in class. I don't want to confiscate his phone, but I wish there was something I could do to keep him from using it during class."
These comments came from some exasperated parents after a recent parent seminar I led.
Responsible parents have always tried to keep reasonable tabs on where their kids go, with whom they're hanging out and what they're doing. The challenge for 21st-century parents, however, has become exponentially tougher. Today's kids don't just jump on their bikes to spend time with friends in the neighborhood. They can travel to cyber-neighborhoods that their parents have never heard of and hang out with anyone they meet there.
The good news is that the technology that makes modern parenting harder can also provide the tools to make it easier and more effective. Verizon's FamilyBase service is a prime example of how 21st-century parents can allow their kids to enjoy the benefits of cell phones while teaching them the digital discipline they need to use them responsibly.
FamilyBase acts as a tool to help parents teach their kids about two major mobile device pitfalls: overuse and inappropriate activity.
The online dashboard and mobile app, exclusive to Verizon customers, allows parents to set time limits and allowable hours for phone use. They can see which apps are on their child's device and who's on the contact list. In addition, they have the option to determine an allowance for apps and music. FamilyBase even lets parents block contacts and lock the phone, if needed. The monthly cost for this whole suite of tools is about the same as the price of a latte.
There's no magic potion guaranteeing that your child will be an upstanding digital citizen. But the combination of a resource like FamilyBase and smart parenting strategies can be a potent solution. Here are my suggestions:
Start with a conversation. Discuss expectations about safe, responsible cell phone use with your child.
Tell them first, then install. The goal is to encourage responsible behavior, not to act as cyber-detectives. Talk first, then sign up for the FamilyBase service and load the companion and parent apps.
Explain. Tell your kids why you're using FamilyBase, but make it clear that it's not up for negotiation.
Use FamilyBase as an opportunity for learning. The goal isn't to punish poor behavior. The goal is to teach our kids positive behavior. FamilyBase can launch other important cell phone use discussions about things like multitasking, netiquette and more.
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