I have been working on a little project for MediaSmarts and it got me thinking of a modern day parenting issue I am going to call DEVICE MANAGEMENT.
Is a modern issue? My parents had to deal with device management a few decades ago too, but the devices back then were telephones with long curly cords, the television (all 13 channels or whatever), and well-thumbed issues of Teen Vogue. Maaaaybe the VCR could fall in that category too. Maybe.
Times sure have changed, haven’t they? The tech is changing at lightning speed and we’re all having a tough time keeping up with it all. There are new apps, new sites, new social media tools to keep track of. Perhaps the best way to tackle it is to not worry about the individual tools so much, but to make sure our kids have been given a bit of guidance before launching in to it all.
I think a good strategy for dealing with people on social media boils down to one word: kindness. If we teach our kids to be kind, to respect others and treat others in the way we ourselves would like to be treated, everything should be ok. Of course, we also have to teach our kids to not give out their personal information to people online, share passwords etc etc. but I still maintain that kindness must be the foundation of all of our actions online.
Anyway, I digress. I think device management (a.k.a limiting how much time our kids spend online) is something that is worth thinking a bit about before they get their hands on a device. It’s much easier this way, trust me.
This is the way we do it here at Casa Fishbowl. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.
1) TV: it’s surprising how little traditional TV the girls watch so there is really no need to set limits here. We do however, continue to have a No Netflix Tuesday rule. Somehow, it works. Amazingly the girls find something else to do on these days.
2) Devices are not to be brought to the dinner table. This is family time! The rule applies to parents too.
3) Devices are to be plugged in/on the charging station by 9 p.m. every night. The charging station is downstairs in the office. It used to be in the kitchen – a high-traffic area – but the temptation to check it while passing by is too great and the tangle of cords was starting to make me a little crazy. It’s better to be charging out of sight somewhere else, like on an electric typewriter, for example.
Here’s what that looks like. It’s not fancy, but I enjoy the irony of it all:
Most of our devices end up next to the thing, so the cords aren’t completely eliminated, but it works for us:
4) Related: I think having devices in the bedrooms is a bad idea, for several reasons. (a) SLEEP. Devices emit a spectrum of light that are disruptive to sleep patterns. (b) SLEEP. Even though the alerts and buzzes and beeps can be turned off, some kids will be texting into the wee hours, no matter what.
5) Here’s something: instead of nagging kids to get off their devices it might be an idea to simply keep them occupied with something else. Chores, hobbies, homework, a trip to the library, etc. If their hands are occupied, they won’t be so quick to pick up their devices.
Did you know that the Apple AirPort Extreme has a really interesting feature that might be appealing to networked families:
A useful access control feature lets you decide not only who accesses your network but also when they can access it. If you have kids with their own computers, for example, you can control the times they’re allowed to access the network. They can have accounts that are available only at certain hours of the day — for example, when you can be home to keep an eye on them.
Pretty good eh?
You know what part of the problem is for me, at least in terms of heavy device use? Portability. The fact that the device is portable is convenient, almost too convenient. I keep my iPhone in my pocket so I am more likely to check it whether or not it notifies me of something in my network just because it’s THERE. If all I had was a desktop computer, I wouldn’t be checking it nearly as often. Sigh.
How do you manage your devices at home? I’d love to hear about your strategies!
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