Advice for Parents About Technology

Advice From A Teacher and a Mom
Every year, during Parent Conferences, I set aside time to speak with each parent/guardian about how their child is using technology at home.  We know technology is important, even crucial, to the digital natives we are raising.  In many ways, we must prepare our kids to succeed in jobs that may not have been invented yet!  We don't want them thinking like this...
Here are some tips I always share:
  1. Make the technology accessible and developmentally appropriate.  For example, we added bookmarks for the sites my kiddos use.  My 6-year old can click on his icon, and that takes him to the  games/sites he uses at school.  He is *not* allowed to just Google it, since we know that he might accidentally click on something we haven't discussed first.  My 11-year old has a lot more freedom, but she still clears new sites/apps with either me or her dad.  You know, the little online worlds, like Animal Jam, Dragon Story, etc.  Here's my usual response to her request: "I don't know much about that site.  Would you like to look at it together to see how you would use it?"  Added benefit - time to chat with my kiddo about how she is playing online with friends, etc.  {More on that in #4!}
  2. Set an expectation that Screen Time is a privilege, not a right.  I know, I know.  We live in a democracy, and everyone is equal, but not in my house.  Within our house, my kids understand that screen time (iDevice, Kindle, video games, computer, Nintendo DS, etc.) is a privilege, and can be removed if needed.  They have the rest of their life to be a mindless drone staring at a screen, but only a limited time to be a child.  Remind them to tune in to the actual world.  They *might* not need to stare at a screen in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or on the way to Target.  
  3. Set limits that are age and developmentally appropriate.  My 6-year old gets 25 min./day on the Wii or on games/sites linked to his school website in the afternoon.  My 11-year old gets 45 min/day on sites/apps we've discussed.  One really cool aspect of this is that some of their games overlap, and they occasionally will play these together.  If they are not in school, they can have another session in the morning.  That's pretty much it, except for the TV.  We watch movies as a family, and the kids have favorite shows they like to watch together, and I'm good with that.  :)  
  4. Teach your child to use technology safely.  As you talk with your kids about technology, help them learn the basics of internet safety: Tell a trusted adult if anyone is being aggressive, threatening, or inappropriate online; Don't click on links to unfamiliar sites; Keep your information secure (age, location, school, etc.)
  5. Exercise your right to use parental controls, especially on devices with internet access.   (iAnything, Kindle, computer, Nintendo DS, etc.)  You're the parent, even if they received the technology as a gift or bought it themselves.  :)
  6. Remember they are digital natives.  A child in elementary school has probably never known a world that didn't include cell phones and high-speed internet access.  Their world is very different from the world of our childhood.  Help them navigate it, and enjoy learning from your child, too.
What would you add?  What did I get wayyyy wrong?  Let me know in the comments below, or contact me with the links on the right.  :)

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