Parents’ guide to internet technology

internet tech

The digital world starts with the technology which allows us to access it…

…and the list just keeps growing!

As Digital Parents, the range of technologies that our children are using can be baffling: smartphones, tablets, laptops, games consoles, wearable tech and many more. Each of these have different capabilities, but the essentials remain the same; each one allows the user to access the internet, a vast and complex network of computers which connects almost every part of the globe.

So how do we begin to understand this array of ‘internet-enabled’ devices that our children are using on a daily basis?

A great place to start is this AmanTECH Digital Parenting guide to internet technology. Scroll down the page to find out more about the five main categories of internet-enabled devices.

Smartphones are mobile phones with internet access. The latest models can be compared to a traditional desktop computer; a computer that just happens to slip into your pocket or handbag as easily as a wallet or purse.

Smartphones like the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One and Blackberry are able to play music download emails and record videos – at the same time! Within a few seconds they can send messages and photos to people on the other side of the world, telling the viewer when and where the picture was taken at the same time.

When you add in games, movies, easy access to social networking sites and online shopping, it is no surprise than many children (and parents) never leave the house without their smartphones. You can even make phone calls with them now and then…

For most teenagers, their smartphones are the main way in which they access the digital world. This is often in the form of social networking, a topic that we cover in more detail in our ‘Your child’s digital world’ pages. 

Tablets and other internet-enabled devices, including media players like iPods, give young people great access to entertainment and education. Portable devices such as the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab function much like a laptop but with a touch screen instead of a keyboard.

Using tablets, our children can view websites and social networking sites, download music, play games, take photos and videos, watch TV and films and make video calls using apps like Facetime, Skype and Facebook Messenger.

Even portable media players, such as the iPod touch, are internet-enabled. By connecting to a wifi network our children are able to connect to the internet, download apps and do many of the same things as they can on a tablet or smartphone.

Laptops are still one of the ways in which our children access the internet and the World Wide Web, despite the arrival of so many more portable devices. Whether it is doing their homework or sending an email, today’s digital children are more comfortable with computers than ever. As Digital Parents, it is vital that we keep up, and understanding how our children use their (or our) laptops is a good start.

laptop

With software like Microsoft Office, laptops are ideal for producing documents and presentations; the kind of things that children will be doing at school and for homework. However, laptops enable users to access everything that the web has to offer, from education websites and news outlets to the latest TV shows and music.

Laptops, with their powerful computer processors, are capable of running very life-like role playing games which allow interaction between players who may be on opposite sides of the world. With built in cameras and microphones, they are well suited to making video calls and accessing social networking sites. 

Wearable Tech might appear to be a new addition to the digital world, but it is worth remember that, 45 years ago, the LED digital watch was the latest piece of technology that everybody wanted. That may seem a long way from the smart watches of 2018, but the desire to have the next and best thing is as strong as ever.

The big difference between the early days of wearable technology – digital watches, pedometers, electronic hearing aids – is that many modern products are not just technologically advanced, they are able to communicate with other technology and to connect to the internet. Some of these technologies have come and gone or failed to find a market. Others have proved more resilient; Bluetooth headsets, fitness trackers and smart watches are definitely here to stay.

Companies like Fitbit and Garmin dominate the market for fitness trackers and wearable GPS technology which record the wearer’s physical activity, heart rate, location and distance travelled. All of this data can be shared online through apps and social networks.

Smart watches from companies like Apple and Samsung take wearable tech a step further, enabling users to interact with their phones; the latest models even connect to the internet directly, cutting out the phone altogether. The wearer can make calls, stream music, read messages and check their diary without getting their phone out of their pocket – often simply by talking to their wrist...

Games consoles can range from handheld devices not much larger than a smartphone, to the Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U and PlayStation 4 which are connected by wires to a TV set. Most have in-built Wi-Fi so they can connect the internet and download games, stream music and video and allow players to interact with one another.

For Digital Parents, one of the most significant development over the last few years is that modern games consoles. allow our children to play with and against other people over the internet. This can a range of interaction from just seeing their character on screen to having full audio and even video conversations.