Guest Commentary: Teaching Mac Safety to the iGeneration

If you’ve seen the lines in front of an Apple store on the day a new product drops, you know Americans have a love affair with Mac products. But of all the iOS users in the country, the brand truly dominates among teens. As of 2017, 76% of teens use an iPhone, while 81% assume their next phone will be an iPhone. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that, along with the title “Generation Z,” the group following after Millennials are also known as the iGeneration.

Security Or Risk?
While the iGeneration may mean future security for the Apple brand, the brand’s popularity has also raised a serious question: does Apple have a responsibility to make devices safer for young users?

Since teen users spend an average of six hours a day looking at screens – primarily on their phones – and because those devices have fewer safety checks than the browsers prior generations came of age on, parents may need to take additional steps to ensure their teens are using them appropriately. And Apple can, and perhaps should, help.

Understanding The Appeal
In order to help young Apple users navigate their devices more safely, it helps to understand the appeal. Why are teens so invested in this particular brand?

One reason for Apple’s appeal is its ubiquity – the brand is everywhere. Android devices and PCs run under many brands, meaning that they’re less recognizable and have less of a social presence. Apple products are singular and teens, who are seeking their own identities, are drawn to the brand legibility.

For teens, then, one of the other reasons Apple products are so appealing is that their friends all have them and though they want to be individuals, they also want access to all the same tools and apps as their peers. And they don’t want their parents limiting their use of those apps.

Teaching User Basics
The most effective way to help teens learn Mac literacy is by setting up their devices together. Even if parents aren’t experienced Mac users themselves, a quick trip through the setup assistant offers a sense of the device options and allows parents to apply security restrictions and discuss available tools in an age-appropriate way. Part of teaching teens to use technology safely is making access available, yet also setting expectations for responsibility. Parents need to emphasize that ownership comes with responsibility – an iPhone or MacBook isn’t a right, despite what many teens think.

Monitor And Learn
When teaching teens to use devices safely, one important thing parents should remember is that you’re learning these skills together – parents included. Parents should read about teen internet safety using the Common Sense Media app or test their knowledge using Internet Matters.org, a UK-based site.

As for restricting internet use among teens, one of the best apps for teaching teens responsible device use is the OurPact app. As the name suggests, OurPact is about establishing agreement and trust between parents and teens. Parents can schedule social media access or block it entirely, block specific apps, and also schedule more traditional responsibilities like chores and homework. It’s a powerful tool.

Apple plans to release its own native device management tools for parents in the near future, which will simplify the whole process, specifically in regards to iPhone use, but ultimately the best way to protect teens is by teaching them to protect themselves. If, as parents, you teach them how to use devices safely, then they have the tools to navigate all kinds of media. You can only guard them for so long.


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  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I,m afraid that the supposed “controversy” over cell phone safety is pretty much shuck and jive. Ten or so years ago when folks stared pointing out the dangers inherent in microwave radiation the cell phone manufacturer commisioned a thorough safety study in hopes of dispelling consumer fears. Alas when the extensive study was completed he scientists concluded that children using cell phone before a certain age (I think age 12) were pretty much guaranteed to develop a type of brain cancer caused solely by microwave radiation. The cell phone maniufacturers of course suppressed the research findings. The head scientist of the study was so upset with his that he personally wrote and published a book detailing the dangers of cell phone use by young children. If memory serves me he reason for this danger is that the bone making up the skull isn’t sufficiently dense inthe young to protect againstthe microwave radiation. By the time these folks begin exhibiting symptoms of brain cancer Apple and others will have come up with a convincing “we didn’t know the gun was loaded” defense and we taxpayers will get stuck paying the hospital bills! Nothing new in that…