We should state up front that we're giving away some games below that have nothing to do with technology. That might seem like an error. We assure you, it is not. While you are trying to decipher how to help your kids navigate technology, give them a game to go play to buy yourself some time. You're welcome, Darling.
Setting nutritional guidelines are a normal part of my daily home life: “No sweets until after dinner.” “That’s enough butter.” But establishing healthy tech boundaries for my kids can leave me feeling uneasy and vaguely guilty regardless of my decision. “Mom, can I play Angry Birds on your phone while you’re driving?” “Can I watch a show on your iPad?”
Technology provides kids with unprecedented educational, entertainment and social outlets. By understanding your kids’ developmental phases in the school years, you can use technology to support their growth, while protecting them from its dangers.
Elementary Developmental Tasks
Kids are becoming more aware of the larger cultural world around them and more adept at relationships, honing in on specific interests and beginning to own their values. They’re building intellectual skills, increasing responsibility and gaining intellectual mastery.
Healthy Elementary Tech Boundaries
Keep the conversations going throughout elementary school and help prepare your kids to navigate increasing technology independence ahead. Early elementary students can enjoy building tech confidence by navigating educational and entertainment resources (with a lot of parent interaction).
Heavy screen-time restrictions ensure elementary kids are creatively self-entertaining elsewhere, playing collaboratively with siblings and peers and enjoying the great outdoors.
By grades 4 and 5, kids use electronics to email, listen to podcasts and share documents with teachers and other students. Technology is a fun way to build skills and gain mastery. Even with filtering software and parental controls in place at home, continue to keep a sharp eye and add an “Ask before you click” policy to the family rulebook (for new sites, apps, etc.).
Kids are still naïve to the manipulative ways of advertisers (who confuse wants with needs) and the values of the “rock star” culture. Engage their natural curiosity by discussing what they’re seeing in media and your family’s values.
Middle School Developmental Tasks
At the young age of 12 or 13, kids begin to face the exciting adolescent tasks of self-awareness, individuality and determining where they want to go in life. Socially, they must learn to interpret interpersonal cues. And generally, they desire to be the same as everyone else to ensure acceptance in the pack. They have an acute awareness about who’s in what social group. And a great deal of effort is poured into deepening relationships via communication and shared experiences.
Healthy Middle School Tech Boundaries
Electronics provide more autonomy and frequency of communication that can deepen connections with family members and safe, known peers. Parents can boost the benefits of technology by helping their kids understand that connection to friends is valuable and amazing. But constant connection gets in the way of having a truly interesting life and identity.
Social media sites, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, have a minimum age of 13. If you choose to say yes to social media, then heavy monitoring and privacy restrictions are required to ensure that kids use it for deepening their existing relationships. Talk about what healthy relationships and communication look like. Forbidden territory includes talking to strangers, cruelty to others, photographs of your body or anyone else’s.
Appeal to your kids’ desire to be seen as mature by empowering them with the knowledge that the 14-year-old girl wanting to chat with them on Facebook may actually be a hairy, obese 45-year-old man in his basement.
Check online activity regularly, just as you’d check on the kids hanging out in your basement or backyard.
Practical Tech Usage Guidelines
Begin setting tech time limits young, so that when kids are older, they will balk a little less (American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than 2 hrs/day). Set time-of-day limits such as: Not during dinner, only after homework and devices are given to parents at bedtime.
Establish General Rules
Don’t talk to strangers, ask before you click and never send photographs of yourself.
Activate Parental Controls
Activate built-in parental controls for all devices with Internet capabilities.
Monitor & Filter
Maintain lists for all of kids’ user names and passwords and do occasional online reviews. Use additional filtering software such as netnanny.com or opendns.com, a whole-house web filtering for all devices on your router.
Kelley Gray is a therapist who has great passion for doing as much offline as possible with her two daughters and husband. Follow her at kelleygray.com or @kelleygray77.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Hello, Darling magazine. If you didn't get your issue, we'll have them available for purchase soon at co-store/mopshop in the next couple weeks.
And now to the giveaway! (Finally!) We're giving away 5 copies of Simply Fun's Apple Race. Climb high enough to pick two apples! The orchard is ripe for the picking! Tibbar and his buddies race to stack their wood blocks, pick two juicy red apples, and unstack their blocks! Who will be first?
Players take turns stacking blocks to reach the apples on the tree. A roll of the die determines whether the block is placed flat or upright. Players race to be the first to climb up their block stack, pick their apples, and get back on the ground by removing each block one-by-one.
• Simple game play and easy-to-understand instructions for non-readers.
• Children learn to recognize their first numbers – 1 and 2, small and large, short and tall.
Ages 4 and up.