Should toddlers be looking at screens?  Make a technology plan in advance.

Should toddlers be looking at screens? Make a technology plan in advance.

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Grab a stress ball: This week’s Ask Help Desk column talks about setting technology limits for young children and canceling Amazon Prime memberships. Don’t know what’s harder.

If you’re interested in keeping kids and teens safe online, check out our guide to social media safety settings or dive into all the data about the apps your kids use. To check if your recurring expenses are within your budget, take our quiz, Is Amazon Prime Worth It? and click on our tips for unsubscribing apps.

Have a technology question we haven’t covered? Email us at [email protected] Thanks for reading!

Q: How do you start protecting and preparing your toddler for the Internet and social media as they grow up? After learning more about the dark side of technology, I completely lost my future. I jokingly told my husband that I wanted to live off the grid to protect our son. Are there resources that teach parents what to look for?

A: If you go off the grid, take me with you! Adults have a hard enough time managing their relationship with technology, so weaning kids away from screens can be difficult.

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

The limits of technology will be different in every family. But Brooke Shannon, executive director and founder of Wait Till 8th, which encourages parents to wait until eighth grade to give their kids smartphones, shared some tips that she thinks can help every parent find the right balance.

First, start talking about devices and apps long before your kids ask to use them. For example, the refrain might become “We waited until 8th grade for a smartphone in our family so we could [blank]. Fill that empty space with something specific to your family’s values, Shannon advised. Maybe your family likes to be outdoors, learn new subjects, or help others. Removing technology becomes easier when your child understands what you’re replacing it with. To that end, it’s important to structure children’s lives so they can develop interests beyond the screen, Shannon said.

When your little one starts experimenting with technology like tablets or movies, take it slow. Shannon said it can be easy to go from zero to 60, so talk to your husband beforehand about device time limits or when it’s okay to sit the kid down in front of the TV. Before introducing any new app or device, set up parental controls so you can enforce restrictions without taking the tablet out of your child’s hands.

There are a few ground rules in the Shannon household, she said. First, there are no appliances in the bedrooms, including TVs. Second, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary schoolers never get tablets or other personal devices unless the family is traveling. Third, no technology during playdates at home. And fourth, an “educational” app or game never gets a free release.

When your child asks questions or gets upset, prepare an answer. Shannon maintains, “In our family, we follow research.” You can even talk to older children about the test results and what they mean. Finally, leave room for flexibility. If you’re getting a headache, screen time rules can go out the window, and that’s okay, Shannon said. A few extra days or weeks of technology (or an entire pandemic) doesn’t mean you’ve failed, and it’s never too late to rebuild your family.

Q: 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 the “pay now” buttons shine brightly and the “cancel” buttons are conveniently absent.

You’re not the first person to notice something wrong with Amazon’s cancellation process. Last year, the Norwegian Consumer Protection Organization filed a complaint against the retail giant, claiming that people had to click on six separate pages to cancel, with each page forcing 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.)

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

If you’re a human on the internet, you’ve come across a dark pattern. For example, why does a pop-up that is supposed to allow you to opt out of tracking cookies usually have two options: “accept all” or “more options”? Why does a pop-up offering a discount embarrass you with options like “no thanks, I hate saving money”? What about that amount that shows how many other people are “currently viewing” an item on a retail site? This is probably fake.

“It doesn’t mean that consumers are stupid or that they don’t have technological literacy skills,” Gray says. “On the other end, there are people who actually create these situations to make them as complicated as possible. So you have to contend with this really concerted effort of a lot of the tech industry.

About a year after being called out across the pond, Amazon has changed its cancellation process for customers in the European Union. Still, we still have hope in the U.S., Gray said. The Federal Trade Commission said it plans to “step up” enforcement against companies that use clearly deceptive practices to boost their subscription revenue. Additionally, some elements of California’s privacy law may also give big companies a chill.

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

For now, these steps should complete the cancellation process. At the end, you will see an option to pause your membership. If you get lost, please email us. email and we will help you.

How to Cancel Amazon Prime

  • On a desktop computer, go to “Accounts and Lists” on the right side of the top menu. Select “Basic Membership”.
  • If you see a popup, select the yellow button on the left that says “continue membership management.”
  • On the gray banner at the top of the page with your account name, select “manage membership” on the right. Then select “unsubscribe”.
  • Select the yellow “revoke my privileges” button. Be sure to read the buttons carefully. Then select “continue to cancel”.
  • Here you will see an option to pause your membership. Alternatively, scroll to the bottom of the page and select “finish [date].
  • If necessary, continue to confirm the cancellation until you are finished.

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