We were surprising our 11-year old daughter with a brand new iPod touch for her birthday. She had no idea. Her old iPod had been stolen months earlier and we decided to reward her patience and good spirits with this new device. Little did we know that this would usher us into a whole new realm of parenting. In case you didn’t know, the iPod Touch models have internet access & texting.
Just a few short months into our daughter’s iPod adventure she found herself grounded from her iPod. Bad choices in the areas of internet, app downloads and texting, caused us to reel her in and set up strong guidelines! It was one of those super-awesome parenting moments!
We live in a technology-driven society. You can’t go anywhere where technology isn’t present. In the 80’s & 90’s (when I was growing up), technology was all around, but we were mostly spectators. Today, because of how personalized it is, we can now be participants. And that includes our kids….big time!
I found it surprising when my pre-teen daughter told me, the other day, that a kid in her 5th grade class has an iPhone 5. “Seriously?” I blurted out. “Yep, and it’s totally his phone, dad. His parents bought it for him!” she replied. I shook my head. But later, as I thought a little more about it, I wasn’t that surprised. This is the norm for our culture. Kids as young as 4 (I have one) are using technology. And I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m a huge fan of technology. I also believe technology can do a lot of good for our kids in the way of education and even social interaction.
But, because of the massive dangers that exist, I believe parents should instill very defined, strong (and fair) guidelines for their children when it comes to technology use. Here are 5:
1. Set up well-defined boundaries.
I don’t believe children should ever be permitted to freely use technology without boundaries. They do not have the discipline or reasonable thinking to not make a bad choice. Obviously there are children who are advanced and can make good choices, but it’s too risky to assume this is always the case. There’s too much danger! Boundaries should be well-defined, solid, and non-negotiable.
2. Make sure use of technology is in public view.
If you disagree with this, just check out the statistics on pre-teens & teenagers and the use of pornography. It’s overwhelming! A lot of that is attributed to private internet use. Public view means no computers in kid’s rooms, no iPod use out of ear-shot or eye-sight, and no use after bedtime hours. This is important.
3. Create healthy time limits.
This goes right along with boundaries. We have spent a lot of time monitoring the amount of time our children spend playing games on our iPhones or iPad or surfing their favorite websites on one of our laptops. Why? It’s simple to us: we have a family and a larger life to live than to spend all of our time consuming media and technology! Healthy time limits help to ensure balance and stability in our children’s lives. Plus, it means they receive healthy interaction with their siblings and with us.
4. Utilize parental controls.
Thankfully, there are several really good avenues for this. In our household we use Macs and they have really good Parental Controls. We are able to set up a separate user account for our children and even decided which websites are okay for them to visit and which are off limits. I believe PC’s have parental controls as well, but I’m not sure how they work. In any case, this is worth checking into.
5. Require full disclosure.
I’m a huge believer in this. If your kids are going to use a cell phone or be on Facebook or Twitter or use an iPod or iPad, the healthiest parenting move you can make is to require full-disclosure. You must be able to view any and all of their content to ensure they’re making healthy choices. Remember: this is not a democracy…this is a dictatorship. As long as they live under your roof, it’s your rules. When they are out on their own and all grown up, they can be free to do as they please…but that’s not now! One website I would strongly recommend (especially if your child has a smartphone) is mymobilewatchdog.com. This is a nationally recognized monitoring system and it is great!
The rule of thumb with technology use and your kids is responsibility. You, as the parent, have to be ultra responsible (for protecting them and guiding them), but also teaching them responsibility along the way. Technology only becomes bad and dangerous when it is permitted to be used in a bad or dangerous way. Healthy use can maximize its potential in your children’s lives.
Question- Weigh in on this. What are some other guidelines you’ve personally set up for your children when it comes to technology?