Child playing on iPad

Who hasn’t had concerns about the children we love and today’s technology?

Technology is a major part of our children’s socialization, education and realization of what we call life.  Whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay!

Today’s blog features a special guest, Bryan Gibson. Bryan functions as the Cayer Behavioral Groups Virtual CIO and has been working with CBG for 5 years. He is also the Owner and Principal Consultant of i2xsolutions, a local Tallahassee tech company. Bryan has an in-depth understanding of technology, which is helpful when discussing safely navigating our everyday tech-world.  Bryan recently spent a few minutes with us providing insight into different devices, avoiding app pitfalls and pairing positive parenting with screen time.

  1. As a parent, what are a few devices you feel are worthy of an investment?

Bryan recommends the use of tablets for children, especially those who are on the spectrum. As you know, we all strive to find outlets where our children are able to express themselves while learning.  Tablets can prove useful for children who are verbal or non-verbal.  The mobility found in tablets allows parents to teach their children whether they are at school, home, or with their BCBA’s. By using these devices, your child is able to use his/her senses and visualize different things happening within the device. Here are some tablets available for you and your children: the iPad, Microsoft Surface, Samsung tablet, Amazon Fire for Kids tablet, Leapfrog, and the Nabi tablet.

  1. How should parents monitor their children on the apps and the devices they use on a daily basis?      

The safety of our children on tablets and applications is something we should all view as most important. Bryan explained on all devices, tablet or PC, there are family security suites. This suite is an application that monitors what your children are doing and places that data into a “cloud” so you, the parent, can see what they are up to. From the cloud, a parent can authorize the use of various applications. Bryan highly recommends using the family suite if you are considering letting your children run solo on a device as this is one of the only ways you will be able to fully monitor their internet habits.  The suite acts as a parental monitor and can be found in general settings in any device. Using the family suite puts parents in the driver seat, seeing first-hand the who, what, when and where of their child’s virtual activity.

  1. How can you tell if the app you are downloading is “real” and will be useful for children?

Yes, there are apps out there that can prove to be phony. Parents must engage in due diligence to ensure they’re not downloading dangerous material. The primary key is educating yourself on the app before you purchase. Make sure the app has a lot of reviews (not only by the developer, the developer’s mom and a few of her book-club friends). And, check other online platforms to see if it was useful to other parents. According to Bryan, and this is unfortunate, there really is no true way to know if the app is legit until you install and open. Bryan suggests monitoring the download and opening of the application in real time. If it looks fishy, immediately delete the app. His advice to tackling this real-world problem is to do what we have always done as parents, investigate everything before making any purchases. And, do not shy away from a hard “no” when it comes to purchasing an application which doesn’t pass the smell test.

  1. Is it worth it to pay for the apps?

Bryan 100% recommends paying for any and all apps you or your children are downloading. Free version of applications tend to have off topic “pop up” ads. One click and your children could be on a completely different site, possibly a dangerous site.  If your children have a history of wandering the internet please make sure they are using apps verified and paid for you, by you.

  1. Would you recommend children have their own device?

Bryan recommends having a family device for your children to use. He suggests giving your children their own device is if it is locked down to the point where they could only access what you are wanting them to see and hear. While there are some devices made for everyone to use, they do make children specific tablets, such as the Leapfrog, Amazon Fire for Kids, and Nabi tablet. On the Nabi tablet, Bryan explained how it has different modes the parents can “lock” down and remain fairly secure. These modes include children modes but also “daddy” and “mommy” modes. Through these different modes, parents can review their child’s history and if necessary tweak their level of “locked” security.

Lastly, Bryan recommends sticking to a schedule outlining when your children can have access to these devices, as too much access is never good. In 2016,  The American Academy of Pediatrics published new guidelines that all parents should take into consideration when deciding on the amount of screen time for their children. The AAP recommends children from the ages of 2 to 5 have one hour of screen time a day while children older than 6 have limited use of screen time per day. The latter guideline is nebulous at best. Essentially, the less screen time, the better!  Further the AAP recommend parents sit with their children while they are on the devices and explain the different visuals they are seeing. If you are interested in creating a media plan for you and your family, check out the AAP Media Plan at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx.

An important piece to draw from this post is, “devices do not take away the need for parent involvement, in fact, they reinforce the need for parents.” Devices are excellent catalysts for communication, learning and exploring. Not an absolute replacement for the irreplaceable parent/ child teachable moments.  Please remember to reach out to Cayer Behavioral Group  at (850) 320-6555 or your BCBA for more information on this subject! We are glad to help you and your children benefit from using these devices and becoming familiar with assistive technology! We also want to thank Bryan for taking the time to sit with us and give us some new insights about the realm of technology!!

#AutismAwarenessEveryDay #WeCayer #AutismandTechnology #AssistiveTechnology