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Category: Articles for Parents / Educators

How to Keep a Closer Eye on Your Kids’ Gaming Activity

Tracking Kids Gaming Activity Online

Contrary to what parents might have thought 30 years ago, video games do not rot the brain — in fact, there are numerous studies showing a link between critical thinking, as well as hand-eye coordination, and video games.

But even with these benefits, the last thing you want is for your child to spend all their time cooped up indoors playing Fortnite. Who knows what they might be purchasing, or worse, who they might be talking to.

Here are ways you can keep a closer eye on your kids’ gaming activity.

Consider a keylogger to monitor their conversations.

It can be hard to know what your kids are talking about and who they are talking to, but a keystroke logger will tell you every single button press your kids make. Just keep in mind that using this for gaming can be confusing, as it will make a log of every keystroke—including your kids using W, S, A, and D to move within the game. You’ll have to navigate through the logs to find when your kids have a conversation with another player in-game.

Use a program like RescueTime or other built-in tools to track how your kids spend time on the computer.

If you aren’t sure how much time your kids spend on the computer—or you suspect they play games when they’re not supposed to—you can use a program that monitors their activity and reports back to you. Some of these programs will allow you to lock certain activities if they extend beyond a certain time period.

If your kids play on console more than computer, never fear. The PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch all have optional parental controls that can be used to limit the amount of time someone spends playing video games on a day-to-day basis. Just make sure your kids don’t learn how to bypass those controls.

Use parental controls to block purchases and transactions.

With so many micro transactions available in games today, it can be hard to stop kids from spending money both deliberately and accidentally. After all, it only takes a few clicks to buy the “Battlepass” on Fortnite, at a cost of $9.99. The same parental controls you use to restrict playtime can also be used to restrict purchases.

If you enable these settings, your kids will not be able to spend any money in the game. No need to worry about becoming one of the parents on the evening news whose kid spends $800 on new skins.

Video games are a fun pastime, and they may even help boost some fine-motor skills. They also allow your kids to socialize with friends without leaving the house. But like everything else, they should be played in moderation. Use these tools to keep an eye on what your kids are up to. You can keep them safe (and protect your wallet) without intruding on them in any noticeable way. They’ll appreciate the illusion of independence while they play games with their friends, and you can rest easy knowing they’re safe on the internet.

Patrick is an Atlanta-based tech writer for Xfinity. When he’s not writing, he can be found spending his time with the latest videogame or chasing down the most recent challenges in Fortnite.

Contrary to what parents might have thought 30 years ago, video games do not rot the brain — in fact, there are numerous studies showing a link between critical thinking, as well as hand-eye coordination, and video games.

But even with these benefits, the last thing you want is for your child to spend all their time cooped up indoors playing Fortnite. Who knows what they might be purchasing, or worse, who they might be talking to.

Here are ways you can keep a closer eye on your kids’ gaming activity.

Consider a keylogger to monitor their conversations.

It can be hard to know what your kids are talking about and who they are talking to, but a keystroke logger will tell you every single button press your kids make. Just keep in mind that using this for gaming can be confusing, as it will make a log of every keystroke—including your kids using W, S, A, and D to move within the game. You’ll have to navigate through the logs to find when your kids have a conversation with another player in-game.

Use a program like RescueTime or other built-in tools to track how your kids spend time on the computer.

If you aren’t sure how much time your kids spend on the computer—or you suspect they play games when they’re not supposed to—you can use a program that monitors their activity and reports back to you. Some of these programs will allow you to lock certain activities if they extend beyond a certain time period.

If your kids play on console more than computer, never fear. The PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch all have optional parental controls that can be used to limit the amount of time someone spends playing video games on a day-to-day basis. Just make sure your kids don’t learn how to bypass those controls.

Use parental controls to block purchases and transactions.

With so many micro transactions available in games today, it can be hard to stop kids from spending money both deliberately and accidentally. After all, it only takes a few clicks to buy the “Battlepass” on Fortnite, at a cost of $9.99. The same parental controls you use to restrict playtime can also be used to restrict purchases.

If you enable these settings, your kids will not be able to spend any money in the game. No need to worry about becoming one of the parents on the evening news whose kid spends $800 on new skins.

Video games are a fun pastime, and they may even help boost some fine-motor skills. They also allow your kids to socialize with friends without leaving the house. But like everything else, they should be played in moderation. Use these tools to keep an eye on what your kids are up to. You can keep them safe (and protect your wallet) without intruding on them in any noticeable way. They’ll appreciate the illusion of independence while they play games with their friends, and you can rest easy knowing they’re safe on the internet.

Patrick is an Atlanta-based tech writer for Xfinity. When he’s not writing, he can be found spending his time with the latest videogame or chasing down the most recent challenges in Fortnite.

Kids Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age

Parents and Kids Internet Safety

The world has now globalized thanks to technology. Such is its significance and influences on our daily lives that even our kids are now part of the growth. They are digital-savvy citizens who were exposed to technology at a young age and now use it on a regular basis.

However, since it can sting as much as it can benefit them, it is vital that we assist our children in learning healthy ways of digital use. How can we effectively do this? Here are several essential tips for parents in the digital age.

Create a Media Use Plan for the Family:

While it is irrefutable that media is one way to enhance your everyday life, it can displace numerous essential activities if utilized improperly. This can include much-needed family time as well time spend with friends away from screens. The need to have a proper media-use family plan has never been more important.

Restrict Reasonably and Encourage Playtime:

Similar to other activities in your home, it is essential that you set reasonable limits for media use. In addition to setting limits, encourage regular playtime and make it an everyday priority. This is especially important for your younger kids as it stimulates creativity.

Participate:

Don’t let screen time be alone time. Participate and play with your kids during screen time as it promotes bonding, social interaction, as well as active learning.

You can either watch a movie or even play some video games together. Not only will it help you bond; it also provides you with the perfect opportunity to not only understand them but also share your perspectives and offer guidance. This is also the perfect time to teach them about online safety and security.

Face-To-Face Communication Is Irreplaceable:

Two-way communication is the best way for young kids to learn. Conversing back and forth has been shown to develop language skills more than even “passive listening.”

Face-to-face active listening communication is an integral part of language development. Conversations can either be direct or, if need be, through video chat in cases where the parent or guardian is not around.

Lead by Example:

Instill good and decent online manners. Children tend to mimic their parents. As their role model, you should take necessary precautions like limiting the time period you spend on your media. This will help you interact and bond more with your kids by being there as opposed to getting lost in your screen.

Set up Tech-Free Zones:

Important activities such as family/social gatherings, mealtimes or even particular places in the house such as bedrooms should be completely screen-free. You can start by switching off the TV when having face-to-face time with your kids to avoid distractions for one or restrict them from taking their gadgets to their rooms during bedtime.

Such changes will not only promote healthier eating habits, but they also add to the family time and help the kids sleep better.

Children Will Always Be Children

Undoubtedly, kids are bound to mess up when using media. Carefully handle mistakes with understanding and turn every moment of error into a learning experience.

However, some actions such as cyberbullying may need some stern measures and action. It is crucial that you take note of your kid’s behavior, and where necessary seek professional assistance such as counseling.

While technology is now a fundamental component in our everyday lives, it should always be appropriately and moderately used. It is possible to ensure it does not disrupt fundamental essential activities. Despite its numerous benefits towards the growth of our kids, it should never take the place of real-time experiences with our families. The latter is vital in promoting the healthy development and proper learning of our kids.

Prioritize face-to-face interaction and ensure it is not overshadowed by a bunch of screens and media streams.

The world has now globalized thanks to technology. Such is its significance and influences on our daily lives that even our kids are now part of the growth. They are digital-savvy citizens who were exposed to technology at a young age and now use it on a regular basis.

However, since it can sting as much as it can benefit them, it is vital that we assist our children in learning healthy ways of digital use. How can we effectively do this? Here are several essential tips for parents in the digital age.

Create a Media Use Plan for the Family:

While it is irrefutable that media is one way to enhance your everyday life, it can displace numerous essential activities if utilized improperly. This can include much-needed family time as well time spend with friends away from screens. The need to have a proper media-use family plan has never been more important.

Restrict Reasonably and Encourage Playtime:

Similar to other activities in your home, it is essential that you set reasonable limits for media use. In addition to setting limits, encourage regular playtime and make it an everyday priority. This is especially important for your younger kids as it stimulates creativity.

Participate:

Don’t let screen time be alone time. Participate and play with your kids during screen time as it promotes bonding, social interaction, as well as active learning.

You can either watch a movie or even play some video games together. Not only will it help you bond; it also provides you with the perfect opportunity to not only understand them but also share your perspectives and offer guidance. This is also the perfect time to teach them about online safety and security.

Face-To-Face Communication Is Irreplaceable:

Two-way communication is the best way for young kids to learn. Conversing back and forth has been shown to develop language skills more than even “passive listening.”

Face-to-face active listening communication is an integral part of language development. Conversations can either be direct or, if need be, through video chat in cases where the parent or guardian is not around.

Lead by Example:

Instill good and decent online manners. Children tend to mimic their parents. As their role model, you should take necessary precautions like limiting the time period you spend on your media. This will help you interact and bond more with your kids by being there as opposed to getting lost in your screen.

Set up Tech-Free Zones:

Important activities such as family/social gatherings, mealtimes or even particular places in the house such as bedrooms should be completely screen-free. You can start by switching off the TV when having face-to-face time with your kids to avoid distractions for one or restrict them from taking their gadgets to their rooms during bedtime.

Such changes will not only promote healthier eating habits, but they also add to the family time and help the kids sleep better.

Children Will Always Be Children

Undoubtedly, kids are bound to mess up when using media. Carefully handle mistakes with understanding and turn every moment of error into a learning experience.

However, some actions such as cyberbullying may need some stern measures and action. It is crucial that you take note of your kid’s behavior, and where necessary seek professional assistance such as counseling.

While technology is now a fundamental component in our everyday lives, it should always be appropriately and moderately used. It is possible to ensure it does not disrupt fundamental essential activities. Despite its numerous benefits towards the growth of our kids, it should never take the place of real-time experiences with our families. The latter is vital in promoting the healthy development and proper learning of our kids.

Prioritize face-to-face interaction and ensure it is not overshadowed by a bunch of screens and media streams.

Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

Parents often wonder what the right age is for their child to have a cell phone, but the truth is, every child is different. It depends on the child’s maturity, ability to be responsible, and the family’s communication needs.

As you consider what works best for your family, use the following tips to help set ground rules and parental controls, and to decipher the delicate balance between monitoring your child’s cell phone use and respecting their privacy.

How to set ground rules

Like driving a car for the first time, most kids are excited to get their first cell phone. And when learning to drive, kids must go through driver’s education and have limitations placed on them once they can drive on their own.

The same rings true for cell phones. As adults, we know the distractions our phones can pose. Before you give your child a phone, discuss cell phone safety and the ground rules you expect them to follow. Start small and allow more freedom with earned responsibility.

Cell phone rules and expectations can include:

  • When the cell phone cannot be used, like at dinner time, during homework hours, or at bedtime.
  • Never texting while walking—this can be anywhere, including parking lots, the mall, sidewalks, or even at home. This can distract your child and can be dangerous if they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Never texting while driving and following the state laws when it comes to cell phone and hands-free use in the car.
  • Only downloading approved apps.
  • Designating specific times to use social media apps such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Kik, WhatsApp, TikTok, etc.
  • Keeping personal information, such as their school name, hometown, phone number, birth date, and address, off social media.
  • The understanding that the phone is the property of the parents and can be rescinded at any time for misuse.
  • A clear definition of who is responsible for replacing the phone if it’s lost.

As you establish ground rules, consider creating a cell phone agreement for your child to sign, and give them a copy to keep and comply with. The contract can include the estimated cost of the cell phone, whether or not you will be monitoring the phone and its usage, and a statement that phone privileges can be discontinued at any time for misuse. Warning your child of the consequences of misusing their phone ahead of time makes it easier to take their phone away, if needed.

What type of phone to get for your child

Cell phones are expensive, and your child probably doesn’t need the newest model with all the bells and whistles. The best first phone for a child is either a used one (several generations old) or a basic phone with limited functions.

If your child proves they are responsible by taking good care of their phone and responding to your texts and calls, you can consider upgrading them to a better phone, if needed.

How to use parental controls

Self-control is not necessarily a strong suit in the still-developing mind of a child, and setting parental controls on their phone can help protect them.

Parental controls can include restrictions on downloading apps, preventing explicit content, restricting Web searches, and only allowing certain games. Start off by restricting as much as you feel you need to and eventually allow more options with proven responsibility.

Monitoring with privacy

There’s an ongoing debate about the balance of parental monitoring and a child’s privacy, and it’s up to each parent to decide on an individual basis. Just as a parent helps their child learn to ride a bike or drive a car, they can also help their child learn how to safely use their cell phone.

Kids rarely make phone calls anymore — instead, they use messaging for most of their conversations. Looking over social media interactions, app use, and texts can offer insight into bullying, disparaging comments, signs of suicide from friends, or unsolicited sexting from friends or strangers. Does your child know how to handle these situations? Will your child tell you about it?

Keep in mind that many kids don’t use text messaging like their parents do. They prefer Snapchat or Instagram messaging, and now both social media apps make messages disappear after a certain amount of time. Staying up-to-date on what apps your child is using and how they can be used for messaging can help keep you informed about your child’s online activity.

Most cell phone carriers offer packages to help parents with monitoring, and a number of parental monitoring apps are also available with varying degrees of tracking. These apps can alert you when specific words are used in messages your child sends or receives and offer more privacy by allowing you to focus on certain messages rather than every communication.

Cell phones can be helpful for families when used correctly. Taking the time to set up ground rules can help teach your child responsibility and will offer peace of mind as you navigate the treacherous waters that can come with your child’s first phone.

About the Author

Lori Cunningham a family tech advocate and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. She is a mom to two creative children ages 13 and 15, and always looking to find new ways technology can help families with their scheduled lives.

Parents often wonder what the right age is for their child to have a cell phone, but the truth is, every child is different. It depends on the child’s maturity, ability to be responsible, and the family’s communication needs.

As you consider what works best for your family, use the following tips to help set ground rules and parental controls, and to decipher the delicate balance between monitoring your child’s cell phone use and respecting their privacy.

How to set ground rules

Like driving a car for the first time, most kids are excited to get their first cell phone. And when learning to drive, kids must go through driver’s education and have limitations placed on them once they can drive on their own.

The same rings true for cell phones. As adults, we know the distractions our phones can pose. Before you give your child a phone, discuss cell phone safety and the ground rules you expect them to follow. Start small and allow more freedom with earned responsibility.

Cell phone rules and expectations can include:

  • When the cell phone cannot be used, like at dinner time, during homework hours, or at bedtime.
  • Never texting while walking—this can be anywhere, including parking lots, the mall, sidewalks, or even at home. This can distract your child and can be dangerous if they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Never texting while driving and following the state laws when it comes to cell phone and hands-free use in the car.
  • Only downloading approved apps.
  • Designating specific times to use social media apps such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Kik, WhatsApp, TikTok, etc.
  • Keeping personal information, such as their school name, hometown, phone number, birth date, and address, off social media.
  • The understanding that the phone is the property of the parents and can be rescinded at any time for misuse.
  • A clear definition of who is responsible for replacing the phone if it’s lost.

As you establish ground rules, consider creating a cell phone agreement for your child to sign, and give them a copy to keep and comply with. The contract can include the estimated cost of the cell phone, whether or not you will be monitoring the phone and its usage, and a statement that phone privileges can be discontinued at any time for misuse. Warning your child of the consequences of misusing their phone ahead of time makes it easier to take their phone away, if needed.

What type of phone to get for your child

Cell phones are expensive, and your child probably doesn’t need the newest model with all the bells and whistles. The best first phone for a child is either a used one (several generations old) or a basic phone with limited functions.

If your child proves they are responsible by taking good care of their phone and responding to your texts and calls, you can consider upgrading them to a better phone, if needed.

How to use parental controls

Self-control is not necessarily a strong suit in the still-developing mind of a child, and setting parental controls on their phone can help protect them.

Parental controls can include restrictions on downloading apps, preventing explicit content, restricting Web searches, and only allowing certain games. Start off by restricting as much as you feel you need to and eventually allow more options with proven responsibility.

Monitoring with privacy

There’s an ongoing debate about the balance of parental monitoring and a child’s privacy, and it’s up to each parent to decide on an individual basis. Just as a parent helps their child learn to ride a bike or drive a car, they can also help their child learn how to safely use their cell phone.

Kids rarely make phone calls anymore — instead, they use messaging for most of their conversations. Looking over social media interactions, app use, and texts can offer insight into bullying, disparaging comments, signs of suicide from friends, or unsolicited sexting from friends or strangers. Does your child know how to handle these situations? Will your child tell you about it?

Keep in mind that many kids don’t use text messaging like their parents do. They prefer Snapchat or Instagram messaging, and now both social media apps make messages disappear after a certain amount of time. Staying up-to-date on what apps your child is using and how they can be used for messaging can help keep you informed about your child’s online activity.

Most cell phone carriers offer packages to help parents with monitoring, and a number of parental monitoring apps are also available with varying degrees of tracking. These apps can alert you when specific words are used in messages your child sends or receives and offer more privacy by allowing you to focus on certain messages rather than every communication.

Cell phones can be helpful for families when used correctly. Taking the time to set up ground rules can help teach your child responsibility and will offer peace of mind as you navigate the treacherous waters that can come with your child’s first phone.

About the Author

Lori Cunningham a family tech advocate and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. She is a mom to two creative children ages 13 and 15, and always looking to find new ways technology can help families with their scheduled lives.

How to Properly Educate Your Kids on the Possible Dangers Online

Kids Discuss Computer Safety with Kids

The conversation around keeping your children safe has come a long way from not talking to strangers and being home before dark. Internet safety for kids has become one of the most challenging parental discussions to have. It’s turning out to be a required conversation at a very young age.

Children are interacting with the internet at higher rates than any other age group. The world wide web presents both a network of engaging content and opportunities for copious harmful interactions. It’s vital to have a comprehensive discussion about all the inherent dangers online.

Internet safety for kids is not as simple as limiting what websites they can access. The myriad forms of communication alone are almost impossible to keep track of in real time. Rather than attempting to chase down all the potential dangers, it is far more efficient to educate children about digital responsibility and how to interact with the vast world of the internet.

Coaching children on the classic dangers online like communicating with strangers, accessing inappropriate content, and opening files or documents they are not sure about is vital. Children can often see the internet as an “imaginary realm,” where online friends only exist in the online world. Parents must make it plain to children that anything that happens online can lead to physical dangers.

While personal safety is paramount, it’s also vital to educate children on the impact their online presence can have. There is a plethora of examples of kids bullying or cyberstalking each other to the point of physical harm via online platforms. It’s just as essential to show the importance of being thoughtful of others online as it is to warn of other dangers.

Steps to Increase the Online Security Awareness

Children often confuse online security with unnecessary restrictions. It’s crucial to be honest with them about why security is so important. It can be difficult for the younger generation to understand such issues as stolen identities and hacking banking information. However, if you can teach them through certain behaviors and make them aware of potential danger zones, you will instill an appropriate view of online security.

Set Up Ground Rules

Limiting screen time or time on the internet has become a trendy way to handle children’s online behaviors. However, it’s getting increasingly difficult to achieve this lofty goal. School work, communication with friends, and gameplay have all been transported to the online world. Thus, it could be perceived as extremely limiting to simply say “only two hours of internet per day.”

However, some standard ground rules are reasonable and beneficial. For example, using the internet in a shared space like the dining or living room. It can help to limit inappropriate online activities. If you encourage children to share any messages or information they find offensive with you, it will help to discover bullying or cyberstalking before it becomes too impactful.

The key to the ground rules is being open and honest about why said rules exist. Clearly explaining what is good and bad on the internet will go a lot further than dictating what is off limits.

Utilize Built-In Security Settings and Features

Most operating systems take young family members into account with certain family-friendly features. Fortunately, these features go a lot further now than restricting certain websites or content.

For example, parents can allot funds to the kid’s online account to use them in the app store. This can remove the temptation for children to spend unbeknownst to parents. Additionally, parents can limit the time spent online with timers, restrict internet content or certain apps, and block the adjustment of specific system settings.

Be Mindful About Online Gaming

Online gaming has become more social than ever. Almost every game has some form of chat component, with many utilizing actual voice chat. Encouraging children to be wary of what information they divulge online is essential. While games are virtual and can always be reset, real information can put your family in danger.

Consider utilizing a VPN while gaming. A VPN can hide the IP address from other users. An IP address could be used to locate your home, even if the child doesn’t give away your exact location.

Be the Example

Internet safety for kids has become one of the most challenging aspects of parenting in modern times. Being honest about the dangers of online interactions is crucial. This, along with supplying legitimate reasons for online restrictions can ease the tension caused by discussions about the internet. Model good internet behaviors for children by adhering to the same ground rules as you ask them to follow.

The conversation around keeping your children safe has come a long way from not talking to strangers and being home before dark. Internet safety for kids has become one of the most challenging parental discussions to have. It’s turning out to be a required conversation at a very young age.

Children are interacting with the internet at higher rates than any other age group. The world wide web presents both a network of engaging content and opportunities for copious harmful interactions. It’s vital to have a comprehensive discussion about all the inherent dangers online.

Internet safety for kids is not as simple as limiting what websites they can access. The myriad forms of communication alone are almost impossible to keep track of in real time. Rather than attempting to chase down all the potential dangers, it is far more efficient to educate children about digital responsibility and how to interact with the vast world of the internet.

Coaching children on the classic dangers online like communicating with strangers, accessing inappropriate content, and opening files or documents they are not sure about is vital. Children can often see the internet as an “imaginary realm,” where online friends only exist in the online world. Parents must make it plain to children that anything that happens online can lead to physical dangers.

While personal safety is paramount, it’s also vital to educate children on the impact their online presence can have. There is a plethora of examples of kids bullying or cyberstalking each other to the point of physical harm via online platforms. It’s just as essential to show the importance of being thoughtful of others online as it is to warn of other dangers.

Steps to Increase the Online Security Awareness

Children often confuse online security with unnecessary restrictions. It’s crucial to be honest with them about why security is so important. It can be difficult for the younger generation to understand such issues as stolen identities and hacking banking information. However, if you can teach them through certain behaviors and make them aware of potential danger zones, you will instill an appropriate view of online security.

Set Up Ground Rules

Limiting screen time or time on the internet has become a trendy way to handle children’s online behaviors. However, it’s getting increasingly difficult to achieve this lofty goal. School work, communication with friends, and gameplay have all been transported to the online world. Thus, it could be perceived as extremely limiting to simply say “only two hours of internet per day.”

However, some standard ground rules are reasonable and beneficial. For example, using the internet in a shared space like the dining or living room. It can help to limit inappropriate online activities. If you encourage children to share any messages or information they find offensive with you, it will help to discover bullying or cyberstalking before it becomes too impactful.

The key to the ground rules is being open and honest about why said rules exist. Clearly explaining what is good and bad on the internet will go a lot further than dictating what is off limits.

Utilize Built-In Security Settings and Features

Most operating systems take young family members into account with certain family-friendly features. Fortunately, these features go a lot further now than restricting certain websites or content.

For example, parents can allot funds to the kid’s online account to use them in the app store. This can remove the temptation for children to spend unbeknownst to parents. Additionally, parents can limit the time spent online with timers, restrict internet content or certain apps, and block the adjustment of specific system settings.

Be Mindful About Online Gaming

Online gaming has become more social than ever. Almost every game has some form of chat component, with many utilizing actual voice chat. Encouraging children to be wary of what information they divulge online is essential. While games are virtual and can always be reset, real information can put your family in danger.

Consider utilizing a VPN while gaming. A VPN can hide the IP address from other users. An IP address could be used to locate your home, even if the child doesn’t give away your exact location.

Be the Example

Internet safety for kids has become one of the most challenging aspects of parenting in modern times. Being honest about the dangers of online interactions is crucial. This, along with supplying legitimate reasons for online restrictions can ease the tension caused by discussions about the internet. Model good internet behaviors for children by adhering to the same ground rules as you ask them to follow.