Should young children watch screens? Make a technology plan in advance.

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Grab Your Stress Ball: This week’s Ask the Help Desk column is about setting tech limits with young children and canceling Amazon Prime subscriptions. Not sure which one is more difficult.

If you’re curious about online safety for kids and teens, check out our guide to social media safety settings or our dive into all the data collected about them by the apps your kids use. To see if your recurring costs fit your budget, take our “Is Amazon Prime Worth It?” and click our advice on canceling app subscriptions.

Got a tech question we haven’t covered? Send it to your [email protected] Thanks for reading!

Q: How can I start protecting and preparing my child for the internet and social media as they grow up? After learning more about the dark side of technology, I’m completely lost on how to plan for the future. I jokingly told my husband that I want to live off the net to protect our son. Are there any resources that teach parents what to look for?

A: If you step off the grill, take me with you! Managing relationships with technology is hard enough for adults, so pushing kids away from screens might feel overwhelming.

Even if your child isn’t online yet, it’s never too early to start researching and brainstorming with your husband about the approach your family can take. Check out the resource pages of child advocacy organizations Common Sense Media, Protect Young Eyes, and Wait Until 8th. Look for some opposing points of view as well. For example, some experts argue that asking for a reduction in “screen time” is overly simplistic when children need digital skills to communicate and compete.

The boundaries of technology will be different for each family. But Brooke Shannon, executive director and founder of Wait Until 8th, which urges healthcare workers to wait until grade eight to give kids smartphones, shared some tips she thinks can help any parent find the right balance.

First, start talking about devices and apps long before your kids ask to use them. For example, the refrain could become “In our family, we wait for a smartphone until the eighth grade to be able [blank]. ” Fill that blank with something specific to your family values, Shannon advised. Maybe your family loves the outdoors, learning about new topics, or helping others. Removing technology becomes easier when your child understands what you are replacing it with. To that end, it’s important to structure children’s lives so they can develop interests off-screen, Shannon said.

When your child starts experimenting with technology, such as tablets or movies, go slow. It can be easy to go from zero to 60, Shannon said, so talk to your husband in advance about time limits on devices or when it’s appropriate to have your child sit in front of the television. Before introducing any new app or device, set up parental controls so you can enforce limits without tearing a tablet out of your child’s hands.

Shannon’s family has some cardinal rules, he said. First, no devices in the bedrooms, including televisions. Second, toddlers, preschool and elementary age children never get tablets or other personal devices unless the family is traveling. Third, no technology at home gaming appointments. And fourth, an “educational” app or game never gets a free pass.

When your child asks questions or gets frustrated, have an answer ready. Shannon continues with: “In our family, we follow research.” With older children, you can even talk about the search results and their significance. Finally, leave room for flexibility. If you have a cold, screen time rules might come out the window and that’s fine, Shannon said. A few days or weeks of extra technology (or an entire pandemic) doesn’t mean you’ve failed and it’s never too late for a family restoration.

Q: I just tried to pause my Amazon Prime membership and it was a fruitless exercise in frustration.

A: Ah, the wonderful world of corporate websites, where “pay now” buttons shine and “cancel” buttons are suitably absent.

You’re not the first person to notice something suspicious in Amazon’s cancellation process. Last year, the Norwegian consumer protection organization filed a complaint against the retail giant claiming that people had to click six separate pages to cancel, with each page prompting consumers to stay on board. . US consumer groups, including Public Citizen, have turned to the Federal Trade Commission about the same thing. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

These tactics are so famous that they even have names: “obstruction” and “annoying”. Both are cases of “dark patterns” or tricks that web developers use to manipulate your behavior, according to Colin Gray, an associate professor of computer graphics technology at Purdue University and an expert on dark patterns.

If you are a human on the internet, you have encountered a dark pattern. Why, for example, does the pop-up that should allow you to disable tracking cookies usually offer two options: “accept all” or “more options?” Why does the pop-up offering you a discount make you ashamed with options like “no thanks, I hate saving money”? And what about that count that shows how many other people are “currently viewing” an item on a retail site? It is probably false.

“It’s not that consumers are stupid or don’t have tech literacy skills,” says Gray. “There are people on the other side who are actually designing these situations to make them as complicated as possible. So you have to fight against this really concerted effort by many in the tech industry.”

About a year after being called across the pond, Amazon changed its cancellation process for customers in the European Union. There is still hope for us in the United States, though, Gray said. The Federal Trade Commission said it plans to “harden” enforcement against companies that are using possibly deceptive practices to increase subscription revenue. Additionally, elements of California’s privacy law may also prompt large corporations to relax on dark schemes.

“Transparency and customer trust are top priorities for us,” Jamil Ghani, vice president of Amazon Prime, said in a statement to the Washington Post. “By design, we make it clear and simple for customers to both register and unsubscribe from their Prime membership. We continually listen to customer feedback and look for ways to improve the customer experience, as we have done following constructive dialogue. with the European Commission “.

In the meantime, these steps should accompany you through the cancellation process. Eventually, you will see an option to pause your membership. If you get lost, send us an email and we can help you.

How to cancel Amazon Prime

  • On a desktop, go to “Accounts and Lists” on the right side of the top menu. Choose “Prime Membership”.
  • If a pop-up appears, choose the yellow button on the left that says “continue with subscription management”.
  • In the gray banner at the top of the page with your account name, select “Manage subscription” on the right. Then select “End subscription”.
  • Select the yellow button that says “cancel my benefits”. Make sure you read the buttons carefully. Then select “continue canceling”.
  • This is where you will see an option to pause your membership. Or scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Finish.” [date]. “
  • If necessary, continue to confirm the cancellation until finished.

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