Like many of you, my husband and I had loosely enforced screen time rules for our kiddos pre-COVID. And then somewhere in the thick of quarantining and distancing, those already-loose boundaries on our rules started to get even fuzzier.
As we look ahead to the brighter days of summer, my husband and I want to circle back to having better electronic and screen time rules and boundaries for our kids.
So, slide your chair over and take a peek: here is a shortcut summary of how we’ll try to get our summer tech game in top form.
Calling in Tech Support
I’ll admit, my first instinct (after skimming all the online research on this topic) was to pour a glass of wine and tell Jesus to take the wheel.
The list of online advice on this topic is ridiculous. But I always turn to my colleagues in education who help teachers and families navigate technology for their day jobs when I’m tackling a tech challenge. The Digital Learning team at Grant Wood AEA recommended resources from Family Online Safety Institute and ConnectSafely for step-by-step instructions for parents. My recommendation is to visit these sites first (but I’m still keeping that wine handy.)
As parents, we know that navigating technology comes with inevitable arguments about how long someone was online, whether content was appropriate, or any other of the thousands of challenges. But some of my tech-savvy friends have used a simple document to share their expectations of digital safety and device use.
Now, I’m good at rattling off expectations in a moment of rage when things go wrong. It sounds something like, “And this is WHY you shouldn’t bounce a super ball beneath a lighting fixture!”
But I’m sure it’s not as effective in managing expectations as it would have been if the rules were spelled out and agreed upon as a family.
The agreement outlines what’s expected for online devices and behavior and outlines consequences when the agreement is broken. (Genius, right?)
We found a template at Common Sense Media that prompted us to have conversations about expectations, and we modified it to meet our family’s needs. Other templates like this also include a space to highlight consequences for breaking the agreement.
So. Many. Apps.
I might have scooted closer to that glass of wine as I reviewed the thousands of product reviews and personal testimonials on which apps to use to help monitor my child’s online presence.
Are you filtering content? Logging screen time? Tracking a location?
There. Are. So. Many. Apps.
This article summarizes the ones most frequently mentioned through my informal poll of what my friends are using. The ugly of it all is that nothing is fail-safe. Ask any parent who has used an app, and they’ll share how their kids bypassed its controls and weaknesses.
Establishing expectations and physically checking a phone or device is still required no matter which app you or approach you use.
Using This Time to Teach Kids to “Drive”
I think my biggest takeaway from this incredibly exhausting research effort was to refocus on my ultimate end goal.
My plan is to ensure my kids’ appropriate use of technology this summer, but my initial focus on time limits, content filters, and other controls was too near-sighted.
Consider this– we don’t expect children to know how to drive a car simply because they’ve ridden in one. We expect to coach and help a newly licensed first-time driver gain experience behind the wheel before taking a car on a highway for the first time.
Similarly, my goal is to use summer to help build my kids’ abilities to safely and responsibly utilize technology.
With the right support, I hope I’m not just issuing parking tickets, but I’m also teaching them how to drive on their own.
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