a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Sep, 2015

Device management in the home

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

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:

Typewriter charging "station"

Cords in behind

Most of our devices end up next to the thing, so the cords aren’t completely eliminated, but it works for us:

Our typewriter charging station

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!


4 Responses to "Device management in the home"

1 | Stacey K

September 25th, 2015 at 4:42 pm

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My kids are not yet teens, so my rules might be a bit different. All of the above rules apply, but we have some extras as well. Sunday morning is “device time”: a free-for all where kids can play as much as they want, until breakfast is made (and parents sleep in). Over the summer, we had a rule we call BORED (adopted from Pinterest). Before you can ask for or be granted device time, you have to have:

B – Been creative (draw a picture, build lego, playdough, etc.)
O – Outside
R – Read a book
E – Exercise (go for a walk, bike ride, etc. Can be combined with “Outside”)
D – Done something helpful.

Most days, they would get involved in something and not ask at all. In fact most days, they never even reached “D”, to be honest.

2 | Lynn

September 25th, 2015 at 7:51 pm

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Over the summer we had a bit of a free for all, and there were devices happening pretty much any time I wasn’t hardcore and barked at them to READ or GET OUTSIDE already. We probably should have set up some stricter guidelines so that they knew was was expected in the first place. Luckily school starting has given us a chance to reset, and now we have rules – no devices at all before school; no devices after school until all homework is done. We also have the no devices at the table, no devices in the bedrooms rule.

I like your idea of devices off at a certain time – our kids tend to use them right up until bedtime and I’ve heard that isn’t so good for them. But our problem there is setting a good example – it’s hard to tell the kids to put devices away for the night when we’re still obsessively checking our email every 5 minutes :).

3 | Claudette (@WriterOfWords91)

September 27th, 2015 at 10:59 am

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I have a main area in the big open concept where the devices are plugged in and the cords are making me a little crazy too. My brother was visiting and it was he who said “get a breadbox and drill a hole in it”. Brilliant!! Gonna get around that soon and hide the cords that way.

4 | Jinjer

March 31st, 2018 at 4:15 pm

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I grew up before devices and don’t have kids so this topic always fascinates me. I’ve often thought “I don’t know how parents today deal with these kids and their devices!!” Especially since, as an adult, I’m as addicted as the kids are.

I’ve always liked the “no devices at the table when we’re eating” rule. This rule that all devices must be plugged in and charging in a low-traffic room by 9pm is a new one that I will share with several bloggers I can think of that are at their wits end. Brilliant! I need that rule for myself, btw.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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