Managing Technology and Kids in the Home
For those of you who follow my blogs, you will know that I love the idea of ‘seat belt rules.’ This is a term I use to describe a ‘no negotiation’ rule, like wearing a seatbelt in the car. Seat belt rules are generally linked to safety and some examples might be no swimming without an adult, or no technology in the bedroom. Every household has different seat belt rules, but be sure to only use the term if there is no negotiating on the rule. For example, bedtime at 7pm is not a seat belt rule as there will be occasions when bedtime is later. If your kids see seat belt rules as flexible, they will not carry the impact we are aiming for.
Technology in the home is a challenge and saviour for every family. When have we ever had such a wealth of knowledge at the tips of our fingers, or access to an instant activity to keep the kids amused while we get vital tasks completed around the home or a required 10 minutes of peace? The problem is, this saviour can quickly become the cause for mood swings, family arguments and anti-social behaviour, just to name a few. So how can we establish some boundaries around technology in the home that allows for positive engagement with technology, and healthy activities beyond the screen?
The benefits of technology can be played in your favour, and here are my top tips for managing technology in the home:
Establish the technology seat belt rules (remembering these are setting up healthy online relationships for your future teenager and aim to keep your kids safe online in years to come, so set these boundaries from the start). Some example seatbelt rules you may wish to adopt in your house are: No technology in the bedroom, no online interaction before the age of 14, no apps or games where the recommended age is older than your child.
Seat belt rule bonus! The beauty of a seat belt rule is that your kids will not even attempt to push the boundaries here. My son may come home talking about an app kids are playing, which he will then proceed to look up on the app store. He will often reply instantly with, “Don’t worry Mum, it’s 12+”. I haven’t even had to interject at all.
Actively participate in the kids gaming. Now this will involve time in your life you will never get back, but the big picture outcomes are well worth the effort. Firstly, you are keeping the lines of communication open with your child. It is often during the moments you are both playing a game, controller in hand and eyes on the screen, when meaningful conversations can be had, without the pressure of embarrassment and eye contact. You don’t need to play for long, a few levels or lives will carry the desired effect and your child will be further endeared towards you for paying attention to their interests. You also gain insight into the types of games they are playing, as well as ensuring the interactions are suitable.
Read the review pages. It is impossible to keep up with the latest trends and fads when it comes to technology, and taking your child’s word for it or hearing “All the other kids have it,” is not the best strategy to base your decisions around the many elements of technology. A quick Google of the app/game/movie name and ‘parent review’ will connect you to a variety of parent information websites where you can make an educated decision. A great example here was when my son wanted to watch a Star Wars movie that had an M rating. We looked up a website that described in detail the elements of the movie that earned the M rating. In this case, it was one graphic scene where Anakin was burned in lava. I was able to establish there were no sex scenes, swearing or gore and then make an informed decision from there.
Time limits for the win. If you are upfront with the kids on timing, they will quickly respond to the timed reminders around their technology time. Some examples here might be to allow screen time in 30 minute blocks where your child can set a timer and moderate their own use. At the end of the 30 minutes, the screen needs to be put down for a technology break, before proceeding again or packing it up altogether. This is a life skill that we could all adopt!
Play technology to your favour. Kids love their screen time, so why not implement the homework first, or chores complete, before the screens come out. Teamed with a healthy time limit, this strategy promotes harmony in the home, with no need for nagging or constant requests to do homework, clean up rooms or make beds.
Technology is an opportunity to support relationships in the home and for children to develop self-moderation strategies. Consistency is key, followed by leading by example. As parents, we need to put our devices down too and embrace the time we have with our kids.
I would love to hear what strategies you use in your home or answer any questions you may have.