Your Kids and Technology

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL

Managing technology, social media, and children has different challenges depending on the child’s age. With that in mind, there are solutions and products or to consider.

Elementary School

Many kids may have tablets or even begin to use the family computer a bit which may be hugely beneficial for educational games. Technology, however, is a slippery slope to creating unintended problems down the road. Ground rules are with no doubt the most important thing to establish.

  • The internet is a privilege, not a necessity. Establishing the fact that it can be taken away at any time is important. This seems obvious, but it can be lost as time goes by.
  • Maintain strict time limits. Only on the weekends, one hour a day, every other day, whatever fits your overall approach and daily routing best.
  • Make sure that these devices do not begin to become too important. If your child seems to become too drawn to the tablet of choice, tune the use down further. It should be no more than an occasional treat.
  • Keep in mind that your habits very much become the norm for your kids. If you text and drive or constantly have your phone, they will certainly begin to mimic that down the road.
  • Don’t have anything on your phone or follow anything on social media that you do not want your child to see. “Dad what’s that?” Doesn’t have an easy explanation.

Middle School

This is the time where your child has their own phone and starts to have their own social media accounts. Things get more complex by the day at this point.  First, know what sites you’re kids are on. Building on the groundwork from before, the phone is a privilege, not a born right.

  • “That’s my phone, I just let you use it.” You are allowed to take it out of their hands or go through it, without exceptions.
  • Whatever social platform your kids are on, you are on. Friend, Follow, and Connect with your children on their platforms.
  • There’s no avoiding understanding the advancements in social media. You need to keep up. The life-changing years of your children now involve social media whether you like it or not.

Research and learn about the platforms your children are using. Take the time to install and use these tools. There’s great value in investing in understanding the world of modern youth.

High School

At this point, your child has a phone and various ways they are communicating with whomever and whatever is at their disposal.  What’s even scarier is thinking about who has access to your child. They’re vulnerable the worst of the worst out there.

Your child spends more time with their device at school than with you at home. The goal is to make change their paradigm from being stuck on a phone to being immersed in reality because children tend to associate their interests with their self-worth. Get through to your children that their value goes beyond the internet.

Stick with whatever your rules may be. For example:

  • No phone at the dinner table
  • No phone after bedtime
  • If we go somewhere, the phones stay in the car
  • You can never carry your phone in your pocket

One day, your child will grow out of high school and onto larger dreams, college, scholarships, internships, or job opportunities. At each milestone, your child’s social media platforms will be investigated in order to reveal what type of person they really are. Everything on the internet exists there forever.

Children make mistakes. They might search the urban dictionary, or click on an unsuspecting link. Then, the screen will show them things you don’t want them to see. Talk it out in a productive way, anticipating this situation. Be open-minded. If you have more than one child, make it a family meeting. Use mistakes as examples so as not to be repeated.

Food For Thought

There’s no magic technical answer to the social media mess.  There are tech tools that do have value, however, acting as a deterrent for children who know about the software. Sometimes, the appearance of constant monitoring is more valuable than the monitoring itself.  The parents with the most success employed no technical tools to speak of.

Unlimited access for parents to the kids’ phones and computers means fewer problems. Children with the most privacy were the most challenging when it came to their devices. No codes on phones, no locks, and the parent can simply take their phone from their hand and look through it. Depending on the dynamic, it’s probably helpful in other ways that the child knows you just want to make sure they are safe.

Limit use for both you and your children. Lead by example. No texting and driving, no phones at dinner, do not always have it in your pocket or in your hand. If you go somewhere leave, it in the car. You do not always need your phone and it’s truer than you think. Leave it behind. Be present.

Problems are worth talking about repeatedly.  When there is a problem, talk about it as a family and be clear on what the issue is with everyone. Use it as an opportunity to get everything out on the table, and hopefully no have it present itself again.