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Digital Citizenship Apps Part 2 – Parents: How to Monitor it

Written by Rochelle Tkach

Have you ever grazed over the shoulder of your child and asked yourself: “Is that appropriate?” Nowadays, it is so hard to tell whether the games, movies, websites, or social media outlets are appropriate for your child. Many factors should be kept in mind, such as your child’s age, their ability to self-regulate, and even your family values. Technology does not make this process easier since it is hard to monitor and see what exactly your child is doing behind the screen. I am sure many parents miss the days of only buying a simple board game or Lego set. What is nice about these traditional activities is that the conversation between peers would happen face-to-face. Through Web 2.0 tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, parents cannot overhear or check-in on peer to peer conversations. Many children sit on their computer with headphones, which provides even more privacy during online conversations. So how can parents still provide their children with a level of privacy while also monitoring the content or digital media outlets their children are using?   

Parents need to begin thinking about digital citizenship. Even though this is a topic that should be taught in schools explicitly and implicitly, parents can extend student learning of digital citizenship at home. Furthermore, there are digital resources to support parents’ own digital values and belief systems. Customizing the digital citizenship process for your children will only help support your own digital protocol and netiquette online. Professionals agree that the skills students need to be digitally literate include the ability to access and navigate information on the Web, analyze and evaluate this information, compose and create new artifacts, engage in reflective thinking, and share knowledge or collaborate with others through the Web (Green et al., 2014; Hobbs, 2011; Instance & Kools, 2013; Meyers et al., 2013).

Simple Strategies

Not only is it important to talk to your child about appropriate digital citizenship, but it is necessary to provide your own boundaries and ensure that your children are accessing safe and appropriate digital content. When trying to support your child’s use of digital tools, you can use the available settings on any device to create some restrictions. Overall, this post is designed to support parent monitoring of mobile devices. The term ‘mobility’ itself implies a need for parents to take more proactive steps to ensure that when their children are mobile with devices, they are able to use digital citizenship skills and further ensure extra restrictions are set in place.

While in the process of setting these restrictions, you can talk to your child about why they are being set. For the purpose of this post, some simple strategies and resources will be shared for the Apple iPad. However, many of these strategies are applicable and can be used across all mobile devices, and the specific resource can be accessed on any device.

First, go into Settings. The following provides the selections you would make in the app store and then explains the benefits of this feature within a tablet. These are extra precautions you can take as a parent to ensure the digital safety of your child. However, it is just as important to talk to your child about digital citizenship. Please see the post called Digital Citizenship Apps Part 1 – Teachers: How to Teach It to get some tips and resources (i.e., iPad app activities) to support your child’s digital citizenship learning.

1. Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access

  • Guided access is a fantastic feature to lock the screen on a tablet so that your child only has access to the particular app you have opened

2. Settings > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions

  • Enable restrictions allows you to restrict your child’s ability to download apps by deselecting Installing Apps. This provides a more secure selection of apps in the app store and prevents your child from downloading an app that may have inappropriate content or unwanted advertisements.
  • Enable restrictions also allows you to deselect In-App Purchases. This ensures that your child cannot accidentally purchase unwanted in-app features.

The best method to ensuring digital citizenship is to sit down and discuss some simple guidelines with your child. Ensure that your child knows what apps or other digital content are appropriate. You may also want to discuss password protection and how your child can protect their own digital content. As mentioned above, to support your child’s learning of digital citizenship, read through Digital Citizenship Apps Part 1 – Teachers: How to Teach It. This post provides some fantastic activities and games that will support your child’s understanding of digital citizenship.

Besides the Settings app within many tablets or digital devices, the most well developed Digital Citizenship resources I can recommend is Common Sense Media. This resource can be accessed through your web browser or you can download it through the Apple Apps Store and Google play. Through the website, there is also a dropdown menu called Parents’ Concerns where you can access an abundance of information regarding your child’s safe online usage and online management. The following provides an overview of the resource using screenshot images of the iPad app. This overview will discuss the reviews and age rating resource for parents.

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As seen above, when you first access the app, you will immediately be prompted to select the age range that YOU deem appropriate for your child. The age range goes from 2 to 18. The app is very versatile and applicable for parents of children in Kindergarten, Elementary, or Secondary school. The app will use the age range selected to help recommend appropriate media for your child. It makes the selection process of online media content more censored and personalized.

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The app will then prompt you with an infographic outlining the different ratings and reviews of the app. Every app, website, video, etc. will be given an age rating, learning rating, quality rating, and will further depict what types of messages are embedded in the media content through symbols. This will allow you to personalize the media selection for your child. If you are less concerned with consumerism and more concerned about language, you will be able to see what media content emphasizes those messages.

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As mentioned above, you will be able to find reviews and ratings of a diverse range of media content. The above image shows the menu that parents can choose from to receive recommendations for their child. Once you select a section, you can refine your search based on age. On the homepage, you can also select the settings gear and enter My Kids. This allows you to see specific content selected for your child’s profile. You can add more than one child and personalize their account based on their age.

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The above image is an example of an online graphic design program. Many kids today use websites or apps like Canva to create infographics and images to post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. As you can see, the example demonstrates the rating system. You can see that the app Canva is very easy to use, contains no sex or violence, and is okay with regards to privacy and safety. The same type of review will be presented when you click into apps, websites, games, or even apps for learning.

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Beyond the rating overview, parents can also see more descriptive information about the media content. Above is an example for Canva. Parents can click into each of these sections and read in more detail about the media content. Parents can also learn why and how Canva is used. Common Sense Media further provides advice about how you can approach a talk about Digital Citizenship with regards to the specific website, program, app, etc.

In general, it is critical that parents have a healthy balance between monitoring their child’s online exposure and teaching their child about digital citizenship. It is just as important to teach your child to critically thinking before accessing certain media content. Your children should know why you are supporting their digital citizenship through resources like Common Sense Media. It also does not hurt to have them involved in the selection process on a resource like Common Sense Media. The more they are learning about ratings, reviews, and recommendations, the more educated they become in evaluating digital content independently. It may seem intensive to monitor and teach such explicit online skills, but in the digital age, our children need to be digitally literate. We are living beyond print-based text and are encompassed in a multi-media, random access, immediate feedback, and fast-paced world.  

About the author

Rochelle Tkach

Rochelle Tkach (@RochelleTkach) is a guest contributor to the Learning Bird blog as well as an Ontario Certified Teacher working as an Elementary Occasional Teacher for the District School Board of Niagara.
She is a passionate educator advocating for 21st century learning practices. When she is not sparking creativity in the classroom, she is working diligently to complete a Master of Education at Brock University. Her research focuses on how tablets can enhance students’ 21st century skills through the specific features and multi-modality embedded within apps. Rochelle’s mission is to place more emphasis on EdTech pedagogy and the reasons behind why EdTech should be blended into the inclusive classroom.

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