Child, teen psychologist: Tech gifts should come with rules and conditions

— A new survey from the Harris Poll says 42 percent of parents with children under 18 plan to put at least one “tech present” under the tree.

Before your kids unwrap that brand new smart device, such as televisions, iPhones, iPads or video games, experts say parents must make boundaries and be prepared to enforce them.

Dr. Kristen Wynns, a psychologist in Cary, specializes on the impact that technology can have on children, teens and families. She has seen problems arise from excessive use and even secret apps.

“There’s all kinds of sneaky ways that teens have of getting around those safeguards. So, parents need to be in the know with one step ahead,” Wynns said.

Dr. Wynns says some apps allow teens to make secret photo vaults disguised as calculators to hide pictures that they don’t want their parents to see.

“I think it’s really important that before parents hand over that device to explain that ‘Hey, this is a privilege. It’s not a right. We’re excited for you to have this, but along with this comes some responsibility and some rules,’” Wynns said.

A few rules Wynns recommends: Parents should have the password to every smart device. This will allow them to do random spot checks, and curb risks for cyber bullying. Second, set device free times of day. Dinner time and family time should have no devices allowed. And finally, collect devices at night. Dr. Wynns said technology should never be in the room overnight with a child or teen.

“I think it’s better at the beginning to lay those out and even have it written out in a contract versus just had it over and two weeks later just try to rein it back in and say hey, hey, hey there’s some rules,” Wynns said. “Better just to do it at the outset to establish those ground rules and boundaries.”

Once the rules are set, enforce them, even if it means having to remove the device all together.

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.