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photo-93Surfing the internet is a favorite teen PASTIME

Tech-mommy: Internet passwords provide life lessons

An ongoing issue in our lives, almost as important as finding our car keys, is how to manage all those internet passwords so that we can protect our families and our financial security.  We learned a big life lesson a few weeks ago about giving our children access to our iTunes, Paypal, Hulu, Netflix and other internet accounts.

We thought it would be smart to keep all our passwords in a file on our desktop so we would not forget them. Well, it took a few years but the children figured out where to find the passwords. The kids didn’t mean to spend money recklessly but they didn’t understand that every time you buy a new song on iTunes or a movie on Amazon mom has to pay.

ABC News: Video on A mom’s cell phone contract with son

Teaching Tech Life Lessons:

Two years ago, we taught the children the important lesson that, “mom and dad own the cell phone since they pay” but forgot to push the overall teaching moment that when you buy something on the internet or with technology you need your parent’s guidance and permission. We love the above video of the Mom who outlined an 18 point cell phone agreement with her son because it reinforces our message.  In addition, Verizon our cell carrier provides constant education on how to manage our technology with our children. We have to work hard to keep up with our children’s knowledge of “live streaming”, data usage and technology in general.

The issue of managing internet passwords is about not only understanding technology, but also about trust and financial responsibility. Our concerns came to a head when we had service outages with our local internet provider.  The children kept having to reset the settings on the Samsung smart tv and their computers to watch Disney shows on Netflix and Hulu. However, they were going into mom’s contacts and emails to mine the passwords and change the settings without permission.

To help solve our issue, we researched our options on both our Macs and PCs. Since our main family computer is an iMac, we went to the Apple store for a one-on-one session to figure out how to best manage information with our family. Wow, did our heads spin after the discussion on password security and how to navigate the iCloud. If we wanted to have our desktop private, we have to give each member of our family an Apple id. You have to be a least 13 years old to get an Apple id so it is something to ponder with younger kids. When we first set up the family iMac, we had a separate password section for Mom and Dad and one for the children. But of course, we got busy and all began to use the iCalendar and iTunes under the parent’s section and passwords. So thousands of dollars later, the iTunes library rests there and is only accessible through home sharing or thru Apps that allow sharing. Given this experience, having another music option makes sense. so we also carefully manage the song list on our Nokia Lumia 822 Windows Phone.

Balancing control vs independence

So when do you set up your children with their own Apple id? We have to get the teens off the gravy train at some point or someday your 33-year-old child will still be playing the family iTunes library with mom’s credit card. Realistically, we hope that technology will evolve and the new  “disruption” will change the whole paradigm but until that happens….what to do? Our advice is to analyze and think about what are the best strategies for your family as they grow older. Maybe incorporate into family meetings for discussion or find whatever policy works best for you ….

So we gave it a go and created an Apple id for our teens as a test market for our internet password strategy. We gave them control and independence, but let them know that they have to earn our trust by respecting others’ privacy and acting financially responsible. To start, we gave them a gift of an iTunes card so they could begin to build their own libraries. Meanwhile, we also downloaded several chore Apps to help reinforce the message.

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it” . Like Mark Twain so ably said teaching our children important life lessons can be tough but worthwhile work.

So what strategies do you use with your family? Please comment below so we can all learn.

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