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Experts recommend using back-to-school time to reevaluate device use by children

Parents should monitor how children are using screen time

DETROIT – With children heading back to school, experts said it's a good time for parents to reevaluate the screen time in their homes.

The time spent on technology and how it's being used are important. Experts said supervising and watching is no longer enough because there are too many hidden features inside platforms.

Experts said parents should consider using free apps that give them information to help them talk to children about the technology they're using.

"I learned that I'm not doing enough to monitor what my kids are doing," parent Kerri Quidobono said.

Quidobono was motived to change how she monitors her children's device use after sitting in on a screen time presentation at Canton High School.

"I think parents forget how many millions of people are out there and just kind of supervising and watching is not enough," said Katey McPherson, of Erca Group, Inc.

McPherson speaks to parents around the country. Her advice is to take advantage of apps designed to help parents monitor what their children are doing.

"They tell you everything you want to know," McPherson said. "They block access. They grant access. They read deleted texts. They give you how much usage, how long they've been on a platform. They give you pretty much everything you want to know."

McPherson's favorite apps include Outpact, Teen Safe, Bark, Circle by Disney and Web Watcher. She said parents should remember they're doing it with their children.

"I'm a huge fan of no surprises," McPherson said. "This is a tandem effort and we're in this together."

"I didn't know there was so many websites that I could use to maybe access the information that I need to find," Quidobono said.

Conversations about a healthy digital diet should start early.

"I know of operate on the rule of five -- that you need to start at 8 or 9 years old -- educating, having those conversations incrementally so that by high school you've actually already had five or six good years of conversation that, yes, they're still going to make mistakes and do some inappropriate, pretty typical things, but those conversations then are so much easier to have if you've started a long time ago," McPherson said.

In elementary school, parents should focus on safety features and how to use technology for good.

"It's not the devil, you know," McPherson said. "Some of these platforms get a bad wrap, but there are really great things that kids can do with technology that are powerful that they can use for their future."

McPherson said in middle school, parents should continue to focus on safety, keeping on top of use and helping children look to the future.

"In sixth grade, kids can start a LinkedIn profile and really start thinking about, 'How do I build an e-portfolio that I can again send to get an internship, to an employer or college admissions officer,'" McPherson said. "The first place a college admissions officer is going to go is to Google to check out who your kid is."

Parents should spend time understanding why a child is using a particular app or platform, experts said.

"Really getting to know these platforms, understanding why it's so important to the student," McPherson said. "It's a device that connects, but we also have to outline for the kids. You need a good balance in your diet of technology that you don't always have to be on those. It's actually not healthy to always be on one."

McPherson said parents should use a no-surprises approach with technology, agree on a time limit and use a timer to make sure it's followed. When a child breaks a rule or crosses a boundary, there should be a consequence for their actions.

Parents should do research and know what apps are out there that children could be using, McPherson said. She recommended not allowing children to have device in their bedrooms at night.


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