iFam: How technology can make you a better parent
"I can monitor everything that you do. But I trust you."
Macworld writer Chris Breen smiles as he explains: "She's at the age where I can still tell her things that are technically true but would be very difficult to implement." He is talking about his 10-year-old daughter. He was one of the speakers at today's tech talk, "Parenting in the Mobile Internet Age," at which parents discussed their trials and tribulations fulfilling their role in a rapidly changing world.
As the pace of innovation increases, so does the number of ways to get into trouble. But parents stand a lot to gain by keeping abreast of technology. The two major techniques are (1) varying degrees of prohibition and, (2) what Breton referred to, surveillance.
Pure prohibition has gotten harder now that teens are able to access the interenet through mobile devices and are often required to use the computer and the internet for school work.
"Sometimes I get to use geography to my advantage," Breton said. His 10-year-daughter ("who is perfect," he stressed) will only do work on the desktop computer in a public room in the house. This way he knows that if she's on her iPod touch, she isn't working. But when she shuts up in her room, he can't monitor her anymore.
Getting to know the devices and sites their children are using can help parents a lot. Apple offers a limited set of parental controls for desktop computers, and you can dig through your Internet browser's search history if you suspect non-compliance with your Internet-use rules. To control the use of mobile devices in private, former Macworld speaker Chuck La Tournous has figured out how to block off access to his wireless router after certain hours of the day.
"My son can never complain about not being able to get on the Internet after 10, because then he'd tip his hand."
Technology sometimes even makes it easier to parent a teen. One product, released last August, is TeenAgree, which Joseph Thomas has covered in greater detail. Teens and parents feed the application a set of rules: driving under a certain speed, staying within a certain geographic area, and so on. If these rules are violated, parents recieve an alert. "TeenAgree allows parents to unobtrusively hold their young drivers accountable." Parents can also use the app to track their child's driving habits in real-time and get email digests about them. It can even monitor whether teens are texting while driving.
Despite all these regulations, the panel, which also included technology journalists Tonya Engst and Omaha Sternberg and was moderated by Chuck Joiner, agreed that parents should never underestimate the power of an earnest, engaging conversation. Especially when trying to forbid something.
Sternberg laid down her line: "I appreciate that you want to do these thing and I'm going to explain to you why I don't want you to do them."
For more of Allvoices' coverage of Macworld | iWorld 2012, check out allvoices.com/macworld2012.