PATASKALA, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Children are surrounded by technology both at school and at home. Many are using smartphones or tablets before they can walk. Parents can help shape their children’s technology knowledge for a safer experience.

Downtime at the Smith house is high-tech for seven-year-old Graham and his 10-year-old sister Grace.

The two siblings have had some kind of gadget at their fingertips since they could walk.

“They both got IPads from Santa,” said their mom Claire Smith.

Smith keeps a close eye on the two for good reason.

“I allow them access but I will keep an eye on things because she is a kid and I think sometimes we forget that,” said Smith.

Technology is a big part of life for children whether in the home or the classroom. Assistant Professor Jim Bates at the OSU Extension says some get their start at early as one year old.

“Children are curious just naturally curious, so they’re looking at this little device they see their parents playing with and they’re like wow what’s going on with that,” said Bates.

Bates talks about the three c’s with his own children which he says are inappropriate content, contact, and conduct.

“It’s those things that we’re afraid of those harmful things and harmful people that can hurt us and hurt our children and those are the things we need to pay attention to,” said Bates.

As a school teacher, Smith says she knows what children can get into with technology at the ready.

“They’re getting on social media and they’re having issues with things they shouldn’t be: posting people, contacting them that are not their friends,” said Smith.

The Smith family laptop, tablets, and cell phones are within arms reach of both Graham and Grace.

Homework is done at the kitchen table with Smith by their side.

“You can type a word and it pulls up something completely inappropriate,” said Smith.

During down time, Graham is mostly interested in games and so is Grace but Smith expanded her daughter’s online freedom to include YouTube.

“I’m not going to completely shield them from it cause they’re going to see it they’re going to hear it,” said Smith.

Bates says the internet and social media are tools for creativity and connecting with people.

They can also help a family bond.

“It can be a family experience to sit down at the computer and watch a game together,” said Bates.

Bates says along with keeping an open dialogue about online safety, parents can protect their children through software with kid-friendly browsers.

“Those things can be the first line of defense after parents have done the teaching and the instructing,” said Bates.

Smith says it’s a balance of trust right now with her oldest.

“She probably doesn’t know this is that I go on her search history, her browser history occasionally to see what she did look up on YouTube,” said Smith.

Smith says Grace hasn’t abused her trust. Should that ever happen, Grace’s downtime would change with losing technology privileges for at least a month.

“Just saying you’re not allowed to click on once, you click on it mommy knows you’ve been on it then I take it away it’s gone,” said Smith.

Professor Bates says parents should talk to their children in terms they understand about what they might encounter. Also to set rules and guidelines about what sites are appropriate.

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