Should children look at screens? Create a technical plan quickly.

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Hold your stress ball: This week’s Ask Help Desk column is about setting technology limits with kids and canceling Amazon Prime subscriptions. I don’t know which is harder.

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

Have a technology question we haven’t addressed? Send it our way to [email protected] Thanks for reading!

Question: How do I protect and prepare my child for the Internet and social media as he grows up? After learning more about the dark side of technology I am completely lost on how to plan for the future. I jokingly told my husband that I wanted to live off the grid to protect our son. Are there resources to teach parents what to look for?

A: If you go off the grid, take me with you! Managing relationships with technology is hard enough for adults, so keeping kids away from screens can feel overwhelming.

Even if your child isn’t online yet, it’s never too early to start researching and brainstorming with your husband about approaches your family can take. Check out the resource pages of children’s advocacy organizations Common Sense Media, Protect Young Eyes, and Wait Until 8th. Also look for some opposing viewpoints. For example, some experts argue that it is too simplistic to call for less “screen time” when children need digital skills to communicate and compete.

Technology limitations will be different for each family. But Brooke Shannon, executive director and founder of Wait Until 8th, which urges caregivers to wait until eighth grade to give kids smartphones, shared some tips that can help any parent strike the right balance.

First, start talking about devices and apps before your kids ask to use them. For example, the refrain might be “In our family, we waited until 8th grade for smartphones so we could [blank].” Fill in that blank with something related to your family values, Shannon advises. Maybe your family likes the outdoors, or learning new subjects, or helping others. It’s easier to remove technology once your child understands that you’re replacing it. To that end, children’s It’s important to structure life so they can develop interests outside the screen, Shannon said.

When your child starts using technology like tablets or movies, slow it down. It can be easy to go from zero to 60, Shannon said, so talk to your spouse ahead of time about time limits on devices or when it’s okay for your child to sit in front of the television. Before you introduce any new app or device, set up parental controls so you can enforce limits without wrestling the tablet out of your child’s hands.

Shannon’s family has a few key rules, she said. First, there are no appliances in the bedrooms, including televisions. Second, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary kids don’t get tablets or other personal devices until the family travels. Third, no technology at home play dates. And fourth, an “educational” app or game never gets a free pass.

When your child asks a question or gets frustrated, have an answer ready. “In our family, we follow the research,” says Shannon. With older children, you can also talk about research findings and what they mean. Finally, leave room for flexibility. If you have a cold head, the rules about screen time can go out the window, and that’s okay, 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 reset.

Question: I just tried pausing my Amazon Prime membership and it was a fruitless exercise in frustration.

A: Ah, the wonderful world of corporate websites, where “Pay Now” buttons flash and “Cancel” buttons conveniently disappear.

You’re not the first person to see something fishy about Amazon’s cancellation process. Last year, Norway’s consumer protection organization filed a complaint against the retail giant saying people had to click through six separate pages to cancel, each page pressuring consumers to stay on board. US consumer groups, including Public Citizen, have complained about the same to the Federal Trade Commission. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

Those tactics are so well-known that they even have names: “blocking” and “nagging.” According to Colin Gray, an associate professor of computer graphics technology at Purdue University and an expert on dark patterns, both are “dark patterns,” or tricks that web developers use to manipulate your behavior.

If you’re human on the Internet, you’ve encountered the dark pattern. Why, for example, pop-ups that ask you to opt out of tracking cookies usually give two options: “Accept all” or “More options?” Why would a pop-up offering you a discount with options like “No thanks, I don’t feel like saving money” embarrass you? And what about that tally that shows how many people are “currently viewing” the item on the retail site? It’s probably fake.

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

About a year after being called out on the pool, Amazon changed the cancellation process for customers in the European Union. There is still hope for us in the United States, however, Gray said. The Federal Trade Commission said it plans to “ramp up” enforcement against companies that use allegedly deceptive practices to boost their revenue from memberships. Furthermore, some elements of California privacy law may pressure large companies to chill in dark circles.

“Customer transparency and trust are top priorities for us,” Amazon Prime Vice President Jamil Ghani said in a statement to The Washington Post. “By design we make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership. We constantly listen to customer feedback and look for ways to improve the customer experience, as we pursued a constructive dialogue with the European Commission.”

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

How to Cancel Amazon Prime

  • On desktop, go to “Accounts & Lists” on the right side of the top menu. Choose “Prime Membership”.
  • If you get a pop-up, choose the yellow button on the left that says “Continue to Subscription Management.”
  • In the gray banner at the top of the page with your account name, select “Manage Membership” on the right. Then select “End Subscription”.
  • Select the yellow button that says “Cancel my benefits”. Be sure to read the buttons carefully. Then select “Continue to cancel”.
  • Here you will see an option to pause your subscription. Or scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Finally”. [date].”
  • If necessary, continue to confirm the cancellation until you are finished.

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