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Tips and tricks for navigating technology and kids

September 18, 2018 GMT

Dan Dillman knows a thing or two about technology and a thing or two -- maybe three -- about kids.

Dillman is the founder and CEO of A2U, one of the fastest growing technology firms in the Pittsburgh area. He’s also the father to three boys, ranging in age from 9 to 17.

Dillman talked to the Trib’s Aaron Aupperlee about how he handles technology and his kids and shared these tips:

1) Stay in touch

Talk to your kids early and often about the responsibilities, expectations and risks associated with using technology. Stay interested in how your kids are using technology, and what they are posting or seeing on social media. Become part of your kids’ digital lives. Be their Facebook friends. Follow them on Instagram and SnapChat.


“We stay back a little bit, give them their space, but at the same time, they know we’re there,” Dillman said. “We’re not trying to be there to be one of their friends. ... We’re there to monitor it, and also we want to have a relationship with them as well.”

Dillman said he’ll sometimes play video games with his kids, even though he knows he’ll lose.

2) Set parental controls and filter web traffic

Most technology allow parents to set limits on what children can do or how long they can use it. Enable those controls, Dillman said. Also, there are programs that allow parents to filter what kids see on the internet and block certain websites. OpenDNS offers a free service called FamilyShield that can give you better control over what your kids can access.

3) Consider the value and distraction of technology

When Dillman is considering a new piece of technology for one of his boys, he weighs the potential value it could bring against the potential distraction. If the value outweighs the distraction, he may decide it’s a good fit for his kids. His 9-year-old son wants a phone, but Dillman doesn’t see the value in it for him. It will likely just be a distraction.

“There’s a big line between the distraction of technology and the value that technology adds,” Dillman said. “The value from learning, the value from social as well as the concerns with distraction or the obsession with technology that pulls you away from the values.”

4) Tie technology use to grades or chores

Let your kids know that playing video games, watching YouTube on a tablet or sending SnapChat messages to their friends is a privilege. Dillman ties playing video games to grades, and when one son’s started to slip, Dillman replaced his smartphone with a flip phone. But be careful. There is some social value to your kids interacting with their friends through technology.


“It’s hard to just say, ‘You’re not going to play these games. You’re not going to get online,’ because what you’re saying is ’You’re not going to play with your friends,” Dillman said. “This is them going out and playing baseball in a field.”

5) It will be a struggle

Even Dillman, who is surrounded all day by the latest technology, struggles with when to allow his kids to use technology, how to monitor it and what to do protect his sons from the dangers out there. It takes work to stay on top of it.

“There’s not an app for it,” Dillman said.