The spread of COVID-19 may have limited our ability to do many things, but it hasn’t hampered our mission to help parents and kids use technology in safe, responsible and successful ways. As we all do our part to keep our families and others safe by staying home, our dependence on the internet has intensified, for better or worse. If there were ever a time to encourage the positive use of technology, this is it.
Over the next few months, we will be providing tips and insights – from live tech chats to guest chats and other online resources – to help you and your family navigate the new reality of staying, working and learning from home while staying on the positive side of it all.
This is not just about security best practices for parents working from home (although we have plenty to share on the matter), but much more, including ideas and habits to help everyone in your home embrace the bigger role the internet has in your homes and in your lives.
Before we get into specific apps, devices or games that your kids are using more often or for the first time, either for fun or for school, consider the foundation that all of this increased internet use will be built upon. Make sure you set up a safe, secure, and healthy environment for connecting, set (or re-set) the rules, and set a good example for your kids who’ll be watching the example you set, more than ever!
- Set up the environment (and respect it). Consider the physical spaces, devices, and use of the network that each member of your family will need and when. This includes:
- Define the place and time for both work and school, for each person in the family. Set up clear start and end times, especially on the days they may have to “attend school” or do schoolwork at home. With no commute to mark your bookends, you may always feel like you are at work if you don’t make a conscientious effort to disconnect or walk away from your workspace.
- Share space and resources with care. Wear headphones for privacy (and quiet!). If possible, plan out who needs devices or intenet access and when so your home network isn’t overloaded. This will make certain you do not have any issues on conferences calls, online classes or dropping the high score of the game you may be playing together.
- Make security a priority. If your router allows it, put your work devices on one of its networks and the kids’ devices on the guest network to keep your kids from accessing internet connected things you don’t want them to. Use reputable, up-to-date security software to protect every device connecting to the internet. Use strong passwords and change them often. Turn on multi-factor authentication on every app or site if it’s offered, which helps make sure only you are able to login to them.
- Clarify what can or can’t be accessed. Kids are online more but should still stick to things appropriate for their age and maturity. Now is the time to revisit parental controls on routers, devices, app stores, and websites so your kids stick to age-appropriate content. With more screen time, be sure they stick to online chats/connections that are safe.
- Make sure everyone is staying physically healthy while online. More screen time can lead to aches & pains (eyes, neck, wrists) that you may not think about until it’s too late. Make sure kids are seated with feet flat on floor, that adequate lighting is in place, and remind them to look away from the screen every 30 minutes to a distance far away for 30 seconds to protect their eyes. Encourage them to get up and walk around frequently.
- Set the rules. You may be comfortable with kids being online more during this period, and may have said yes to apps or games you were holding out on, but even in this new normal, kids still need boundaries. Let them help you as you consider the rules and consequences of breaking them. Here are some rules to consider and questions to ask if you have not done so already.
- What is allowed? With more time at home, invest a few minutes to decide and maybe expand the list of apps, games, and devices your kids can use. Let them be part of researching them and why something is or isn’t ok for them.
- Where can they use it? Designate the spaces where they will use tech for school vs. fun if you can separate them. A mind shift can make a difference.
- When can they use it? Build a schedule of tech use, allowing for school time, connecting with friends or entertainment.
- How long are they allowed on it? In addition to school time, allow fun tech time balanced with outside or non-screen time. And don’t worry about relaxing the rules during these times. It’s the quality not quantity that counts.
- With whom can they use it? Be sure they stick to online chats/connections on social network, video chats or videogames that are safe and approved by you.
- Set a good example (because young eyes are watching, and ears are listening). Work pressures can make it very easy to forget the feelings of others. Find time to support each other and acknowledge one another’s space.
- Set rules for yourself. Your kids are more likely to follow rules if they see you following rules, too.
- Respect each member of the family’s time for work or school online as well as their time offline. It can be very easy to assume something is more important than another, but it does come down to perspective and shared experiences.
- Allow each person individual time online for socializing, entertainment, etc. Going back to our tip on boundaries, don’t lose sight of the fact that all work and no play may turn you into a digital and physical zombie.
- Spend time together as a family, both online and off. You may think because you are all under the same roof that you are ‘together’ – that isn’t always the case. Make the time to sit and play a video game or a board game together. Eat meals together and keep the devices face down. Go for a walk, bake, or reach out to family on a video chat together whenever you can. Find ways – online or off – to help others who are in need or are risking their lives during this challenging time to put everything into perspective. As tough as this time might be, directing your family’s energy towards helping others is helpful both to them and to you.
Our collective experience during this global health crisis has shown that nobody has been spared the stresses of abruptly shifting our lives indoors and online. But taking these first steps — setting up a healthy, safe environment, setting the rules and setting a good example — could help you make the transition more smoothly. It’s a foundation to help your family as you spend an increasing amount of time working and learning from home. But it will also help you once this is all over.
Beyond these steps, it’s still important for you and your kids to be good digital citizens. We’ve got more tips and resources on using the internet in safe, kind and productive ways on this site and more on the way.
We’ll also be hosting a series of live events and guest experts to talk about the new challenges to families and to take your questions.
For more tips, resources and a schedule of our live Q&A events, visit internetsafety.trendmicro.com.
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