Thanks to the internet, kids today have access to all kinds of information - and not all of it is beneficial. In fact, according to statistics, 70% of teens use smartphones, 80% of parents aren't sure how to monitor their child's online activities, and 46% of teens said they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were paying more attention.
To help parents maneuver technology and keep their kids safe online, Matt McKee, a former pastor, husband and father, penned the book Parent Chat: The Technology Talk for Every Family.
"I want to help parents help their kids have a healthy relationship with technology," McKee told The Gospel Herald during a sit-down interview in Orlando, Florida. "That parental control, that relationship, will actually beat any technology that's ever created. Parents have to be able to have a conversation with their child and be able to understand the way that their child is looking at whatever piece of technology it is. That's where parents must start. They have to be able to ask open-ended questions and let their children know that they care for them and trust them."
McKee's passion for helping parents wisely navigate the world of technology stems from personal experience. Several years ago, he was dismayed to learn his 9-year-old son had accessed adult sites while at a friend's house.
He recalled: "My son came to me and said, 'Dad, did you know that Superman and Wonder Woman take off their clothes sometimes?' I knew then that he had been exposed to pornography. It broke my heart as a dad, but also told me that we had an issue in connectivity."
The father-of-two explained that most parents approach technology from a place of fear, feeling that their children are far more tech-savvy than they will ever be.
"When you're fearful, you can't lead," McKee said. "You can't lead a company, you can't lead your family. We need to give parents hope."
In his book, McKee discusses how different ages think about technology, gives practical solutions, and offers up technology usage contracts. He told GH that often, parents approach technology from a practical perspective, asking what it can do for them. However, children approach technology from a place of curiosity, simply asking, "What does it do?"
"To really connect and help their children have a better relationship with technology, parents need to start being more curious about what devices and apps actually do," McKee explained. "Then, they can help give technology purpose. When technology has purpose, then parents can hold a kid accountable. Parents aren't giving technology a purpose; they're saying, 'I have no clue what I'm doing.' Because of that, kids don't have a healthy relationship. Parents need to be curious and give purpose."
In addition to Parent Chat, McKee has partnered with Disney on a new product called Circle - a wireless device that helps parents stay informed about their kids' online activities and allows parents monitor and limit screen time on every device in the home, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and gaming consoles.
Circle, which is completely customizable, gives parents the ability to filter content, set a bedtime for devices and even completely pause the Internet.
"Life-changing, the best money we've ever spent, worth every penny," McKee said when asked what kind of response he's received from parents who use Circle. "We hear feedback from a lot of parents who say 'Thank you,' and 'I can't believe it's taken us this long to find this."
He added with a chuckle, "And then we hear from kids that it's the worst thing in the world."
To learn more about Matt McKee, click here.