Setting up your home for you and your kids can be a daunting task. Maybe you have multiple kids, work from home parents, limited spaces, and the list goes on. The best thing that you can do is to front load and set up ahead of time to avoid any problems that could arise using one-to-one technology from school.
It’s essential to begin prep work prior to introducing technology into your home. Maybe your family already has regular family meetings that can cover this, or, if not, just a simple discussion will help to open this up. It is a key part to being successful as a family utilizing technology. Here you can lay the groundwork upfront and discuss kid and parent concerns and expectations. It could go something like this “I know that you will be getting your own device from school this year, I think it’s important that we have some rules laid out” or “This is the year we agreed you would get your own phone or tablet, lets set some rules and expectations together before we get it.” Doing this will set the stage for expectations from the beginning and open the lines of communication.
Boundaries are such an important part of the conversation you have with your school aged child. Try opening up with a question like this: “What do you think are some appropriate rules we should have for using technology in our home?” Kids are smart. Kids know what is appropriate and what’s not and by letting them lead the conversation, you’ve given them a lot of ownership (which they LOVE!) and which will help you later if problems should arise. Boundaries usually range from time of usage, the time of day technology can be used, where in the house can technology be used and what are appropriate task, apps or games to be on when using technology. Again, lead with love and questions and make this a family agreement and you will have much more buy in from your kiddo.
If your family is like ours than this is a conversation you’ve heard before: “Mom, Dad, My tablet’s a 1%, I don’t know where my charger is!?” or the fun sibling argument “That’s not your charger, that’s mine…”. Have you had those arguments in your home? They can be avoided if you can establish one spot where they will be stored. It can be as simple as a basket in the living room or during the school year making sure it’s by or in their school bag. Establishing this one storage place will be so helpful in preventing future arguments and who doesn’t want that?
Many devices come with parent control settings, sleep settings and useful settings and apps to help control and limit the user’s screen time. If it’s a personal device there are many apps that link a parent and child device together where the parent can set time limits. Like setting up boundaries, when discussing time limits ask your child what they think appropriate limits are. Our kids are smart and intuitive, they will surprise you in the best way. If yours suggests 5 hours, try guiding them down. You are welcome to pull this fact to help if you have a child who just loves screen time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours a day of screen time. Make sure you consider how much time is spent at school on a screen and incorporate that into your discussions. This boundary may look different on a school day, weekend, sick day and summer day, make sure to take all of those into account.
Mix it up
Your kid will have their favorite form of technology. No doubt they will have favorite games and past times they enjoy, but as their guide I encourage you to mix things up with them. Have them teach you a game they enjoy, take a turn and you teach them something you loved. My daughters loved learning about Tetris, Oregon Trail and Pit Fall (I, know totally aging myself!). This is also your time to make sure they’re spending time drawing, painting and putting other skills to use. In our family we’ve looked for ways to incorporate multiple skills, like taking pictures of craft projects we’ve built, then creating a slides presentation story, using presentation sites to help share information as a family. We have shared family trip plans or family requests (yes, they requested new pets using this!) and brainstorming business plans for the summer. Help them look for new and fun ways to mix up having fun with technology and being kids.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to help strengthen your family communication, set boundaries and enrich your lives by incorporating technology into your home. Having a plan and talking through things as a family will set you up for a wonderful fun and successful year together.
Jessica Stallings MA Ed. is a veteran teacher and tech writer. She is a National Board Certified Educator who values teaching the whole child and enjoys working with learners of all ages. Her favorite thing as an educator is to watch how technology motivates all different types of learners of varying ability levels. She hopes to empower learners and families to use technology to help connect them to and learn more about the beautiful world we live in. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she loves to spend time on the North Carolina Coast with her family and dog, Fletcher.