My nephew, 10, wants to be a YouTube star – he could do it too, he’s pretty good.
He has a personal Instagram and an Instagram account for his dog (cute!) he posts to from a phone, he loads YouTube videos from the family computer and streams from his PS4 (don’t ask me how. He’s got the frantic, live gaming patter down to a fine art though). At just 10 years old he’s connected in ways I never imagined as a child, and that’s not that unusual in this day and age.
With just a few days till many Kiwi schools go back, it’s time to talk about the tech an average kid might need to get through the school year and their new, ever-expanding social lives, and the impact that can have on the home.
“Things like keeping files safe if the device gets damaged or goes missing, right through to keeping the device itself secure, to making sure the right content is visible and kids can’t acess the wrong thing,” these are some of the issues facing parents, says Noel Leeming spokesman Toby Foreland.
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“The thing I end up talking about with most parents is software that’s going to give you some sort of control. Usually that’s bundled in with your anti-virus software, so getting a comprehensive security and online protection and anti virus software is crucial.”
That’s not much help if you’re using Apple products like iPhone or iPads as they don’t require security software. They do come with built-in help, however.
“Being a little bit more restrictive about what apps can do on their devices, Apple changes the game a little bit. One of the things you get with an online protection app is web filtering, so you can have that protection on Apple devices.
“As you get into the Mac books and Powerbooks, you do get the full parental control suite of options, so you can be more in control.”
Foreland points out that iOS devices have built-in screen time monitoring, so you can keep a track of how your kids are using their phones that way, too.
“When it comes to the parental control side of things you do get a lot more functionality out of an app.”
Apps like Bark, Qustodio, Net Nanny and Norton are available from your phone or device’s app store, and can control everything from texts and phone calls, to blocking certain sites, tracking browsing, limiting gaming time and even providing a location tracker and panic button.
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So you now have a laptop or Chromebook each, a phone each and possibly a tablet each – the kids might use theirs for school work. How is your wi-fi or broadband going to cope?
In terms of keeping them safe online, you can do some things before the internet even gets to the device via your internet connection.
“With a lot of modems and routers you can get your filtering set up with some of your parental controls there,” says Foreland.
“Some of the Net Gear modem routers have a particularly good filtering and parental control app built-in called Circle with Disney, that’s a really good one. It’s a good way to see and control what people are doing, and you can set different rules and criteria for different devices.”
Other brands offer that functionality as well, but Circle allows parents to set controls for specific people and devices.
“So if you’ve got all ages in the home, it’s a good way to be a bit more tailored in your approach. You want to be able to control what goes on, but you also want to control it differently for little ones, compared to teens.”
If you want to boost your wi-fi acess around the house – particularly for your surly teens who want to spend all their time in their bedrooms – mesh wi-fi can be a solution.
“That’s where you put satellite devices with overlapping wi-fi around the home, but we also sell kits that run your network over the powerlines so you can place routers anywhere in the home for better coverage.”
So you’re all connected up, and the wi-fi is humming. But next to the bed there’s a small nest of cables.
There’s another one in a kitchen draw, old cables and cords, double-ups from Apple devices, laptop power cables and defunct phone chargers. It’s just as bad in the home office, where a multi-plug power brick is humming with plugs for every device. How do you sort that lot out?
“Cables can be a real nightmare, it’s not the easiest one to solve,” says Foreland.
“There are quite a few different approaches to it, but one of things I’m seeing happening more and more is devices moving toward universal cables for power and transferring files. So it’s getting easier.”
A lot of devices now use a connection called USB-C or USB type C, which go from phones, tablets and laptops irrespective of the maker, even some Apple devices.
“If you’ve got a lot of cables and a lot of different devices there isn’t really a perfect solution to keeping track of all that. One thing I like to do though, instead of keeping all the charging bricks like the USB one you plug into the outlet, is I get a few USB hubs, so you can plug it in to power and it has four or six USB sockets, so you can power several things at once from that.
“Those are also great for travel. I use them all the time.”
* This article is editorial content produced in association with Noel Leeming.