The holiday season had all of us giving. With increasing popularity – and even seeming necessity - tech gifts were at the top of our children’s wish lists. So now that we’ve settled into the post holiday season and winter is fully upon us, where do we go from here? How do we ensure the device we bought is used well? If we said yes to the tech, how do we make sure that decision isn’t haunting us? It’s worth thinking about.
Giving digital approval to our children and teens for devices, games, apps and social networks needs to be more than a yes, but a process – especially after it is given. Now that the technology is here, we have to determine how we want it in our lives. This evaluation is based on our personal readiness assessment of each child that goes beyond the technology – it includes their schoolwork, social relationships, contribution to the family systems, overall health and their interactions with the other technology in their lives.
Additionally, and perhaps even more critically, we need to assess our own readiness to parent it. We need a moderate level of digital fluency, a good understanding of what is allowed and a clear expectation on how it will be in our lives as individuals and as a family.
Setting Tech Boundaries
Devices and social networks can certainly be tools for the positive, for the fun, for the useful. But we see this best exemplified when the foundational work has been laid and parents and their young users are willing to set boundaries and engage in conversations that go beyond the introductory, “one and done” discussion, but rather are kept alive and ongoing, changing, deepening, and evolving just as our children and the their technology do. It is our responsibility to teach the ethics and citizenship of all that we allow in our children’s digital engagement as a part of modern day parenting, just as we continue to do away from the screens.
My five children, from second grade to a high school sophomore, are all interacting with technology in their own ways, based on family principles, personal tendencies and tech scaffolding. My thirteen year old son opened an iPhone this Christmas, but will have to wait through an agreed upon trial period before adding social networks. My eleven-year-old daughter got texting privileges on a new device, but as a beginner user can only text with relatives and a small group of predetermined friends for now. This gives them opportunities to do well and have success with the technology and sets them up for a healthy digital life. It also allows me to get a better understanding of their tech tendencies. We can layer, adjust or take a step back as needed. Just because we have access or can give all of the technology in the world to our children at once, doesn’t mean that we should. Saying “yes” should be an act of relative certainty, not an automatic.
With the thousands of youth and families I work with on this very topic, I know for sure that the digital health and well-being is not a one size fits all conversation or solution. We all have differing approaches, uses, tolerances, and tendencies just as we do in our lives beyond the tech. But it is our obligation to lead our families in this space. To do the work it takes to have tech success we must apply the same thoughtfulness and deliberate parenting all along – even months after that gift is unwrapped.
Image courtesy of Flickr.