CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte parents learned how to establish ground rules for safe and responsible use of technology through a Digital Parenting Forum Wednesday night.

Stephen Balkam, the founder of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), talked to parents about how to navigate through the everchanging digital world.

“Just trying to keep track of this firehose of digital technology is exhausting,” Balkam said.

Parents across the region came to the forum seeking advice and knowledge as their kids grow up surrounded by smartphones, computers, and tablets.

“It's important because, in these days, there's so many things that kids can get into online,” said Heather McCloskey, a parent and publisher of Macaroni Kid Fort Mill - Tega Cay - Rock Hill, S.C. “You think they're watching something that's safe, and then they go down a rabbit hole of something else."

Balkam went over the seven steps to good digital parenting at the forum. These include: 

  • Talking with your kids
  • Educating yourself
  • Using parental controls
  • Setting ground rules and enforcing consequences
  • Friending and following your child without stalking
  • Exploring, sharing, and celebrating
  • Being a good digital role model

“Back to school is a particularly good time to set the rules for the new year, the new school year, and to say if you break these rules, there are going to be some sanctions,” Balkam said.

He suggested families have tech-free zones in the house, such as bedrooms at nighttime. He also recommended the whole family stash away their devices in a set places for a screen time break.

“It's really hard for me to put my phone away, so I'm trying to teach my kids to put their devices away.”

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