Good Digital Parenting
Dec. 9, 2015

Different houses, different tech rules

Law Professor & Children's Rights Advocate, European Schoolnet

In today’s world, more than half of families do not meet that traditional Ozzie and Harriet definition of a nuclear family.  We find stepfamilies, single-parent families and more, all with the same concerns regarding their child’s health and wellbeing, but perhaps differing emphasis on rules for Internet and technology use.
How can parents deal with the issue of tech rules and devices at different houses? Let me give you three examples:

  • What do you do if the parents of your child's friend lets them have unlimited screen time when your child is over, or lets them watch mature content movie etc?
  • What do you do if your children are at a family gathering at your brother’s house and Auntie and Uncle let their family operate under a different set of rules causing children to get upset? 
  • What do you do if your ex allows your children unlimited screen time and purchases the latest and greatest technology on a regular basis?
These are really serious challenges for your children and for your digital parenting style, however I have collected some best practices from experts, parents as well as from young people themselves. 

Sleepover or Not to Sleepover

  • That is your question as a parent. The answer depends on your child and your level of comfort.  If you’re child is under 13, here are some Super Nanny tips to guide you
  • If you don’t know the parents, perhaps you could grab a coffee with them. The more you get to know the parents, the better off you will feel.
  • Another alternative, when you don’t know the parents or if you don’t feel comfortable, is to host the sleepover yourself. Gasp! Check out these non-tech sleepover ideas or this tween planning party post for inspiration.
Communication
  • Before handing a stack of rules to the sleepover parent, Auntie or your ex, make sure that you have spoken with your children. Clearly set out YOUR rules and how you expect your child to act when on a sleepover or outing.
  • Have a family media agreement in place? Great.  Be sure to review it before they head out.  (You can always put a copy in their backpack to ‘share’ with the sleepover parent, Auntie or your ex.)  And if you don’t have a family media agreement in place, now is a good time.
Third Party Communication
  • So can you actually tell the sleepover parent, Auntie or your ex what to do with your child? Of course, the answer depends on the type of relationship that you have, but a general rule of thumb is to avoid going into Hellacious Helicopter Parent mode.
  • In casual conversation, you can mention your home screen limits, like “Jimmy is normally allowed 30 minutes screen time after homework and chores, but I understand this sleepover / family event, is a special event.  How can we put a limit and still allow the kids to go wild?”
  • Dealing with your ex-wife or ex-husband is a different kettle of fish and it’s best to avoid being the “bad cop” by laying down arbitrary restrictions after a tech blow out weekend with your ex.  Try to remember that the ex’s time with your children is exactly that – the ex’s time.  Put your focus on being the best (digital) parent that you can be and maintain structure and consistency in your home.  
Family Gatherings
  • Luckily the optimal word here is family and I’m assuming that you will be able to speak to Auntie or Uncle about tech limits without ruffling any feathers.  
  • But if that’s not the case, how about proposing some cool tech activities, like family trees research, film the family talent show, or create a family documentary of the event?

A final word: establishing and maintaining tech rules in your home can be a challenge, and extending those rules to sleepovers, family gatherings and your ex can indeed be tricky business.  But please keep in mind that you have set the foundation for raising a good digital citizen and I’m betting that your child won’t let you down.

If you have tips or ideas that work well for you and your family regarding these issues, please share them below so that other families can benefit too!


Image courtesy of Flickr.