Technology is everywhere. It's in our homes and it's finally in our schools.
Many schools are embracing the idea of technology in the classroom, adding computers and tablets to the growing list of tools available to both teachers and students. That means, our kids are spending more and more time in front of screens at school.
Now a part of me says this is great. I am a 'techy' kind of guy. I love to make use of computers and personal devices. I use them for just about everything. And I want my kids to see the usefulness of technology. But another part of me still wants to be careful with how much screen time my kids have on a day to day basis.
As we begin to prepare for the back to school season, we want to encourage the use of technology while also thinking about what our screen time policy is going to look like throughout the year. Now, I don't think our school district has gone as far as to provide students with tablets and/or personal computers, so there's little chance that our kids are sitting in front of screens all day. But I do know that some school districts pass out tablets and devices to help keep students organized. So as I think about screen time, I'm looking from the perspective of our family.
So here is what I am thinking about.
1. Keep an eye on their screen time in general.
There are varying opinions as to just how much screen time is acceptable and recommended for students. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children and teens should only engage in media related screen time for a total of one to two hours. Their studies have also shown that too much screen time can have real and significant effect on our kids. If you are unaware of these studies, let me recommend that you read this article, Media and Children from the AAP. Then simply google screen time and kids, and you'll find a search engine full of additional articles and studies. (But be sure the study is conducted by a reputable organization and not some opinionist who simply wants to share his thoughts.)
With that in mind, the question is, what do we do?
Well, you know they will be in front of screens at school. And chances are they will be on screens when they get home. And if you have teens with a smart phone, well they will be on their screen almost all the time. So our job as parents is to become aware of the amount of screen time our kids are having and find a balance that works for you, them, their health, and their school work. Within the first couple weeks of school, try to keep track of their screen time. Most schools host a meet the teacher night, usually within the first couple weeks of the year. One question you might ask is, "How much time are students spending in front of computers and tablets?" While at home, take note of required computer use for homework assignments and research papers. Also monitor their phone, video game play, TV watching, and web surfing. These all play into how much time is spent in front of a screen.
When you think you have a handle on the amount of time being spent in front of a screen, sit down with your kids and work together to come up with a plan that limits the amount of screen time they have. If your kids are anything like our kids, any talk about limiting screen time is going to be met with fierce opposition, but don't buckle under the pressure. Instead, explain that you only have their health and success in mind and that you want to help them to do their best. (That will work, right?!) But seriously, you may have a better shot at this if you come to your kids and talk about why they need limits, as opposed to just dictating restriction.
2. Understand the Technology.
This is a general statement and not necessarily true in all cases...but today's generation of kids know more about technology than most adults/parents. Kids thrive on technology. Many walk around with it in their pockets. They play with it. They talk to their friends about it. And chances are you, do don't. That gives them the advantage and you the disadvantage.
But as parents, it is super important that we learn about and know the technology that our kids are using. Whether it's the home computer, a tablet, or a smart phone, you need to know the capabilities of the device. Take the smart phone for example. Today's generation of smart phones are incredible powerful. They are literally pocket-sized computers that connect our kids with the world. They can look up anything, watch anything, and just about do whatever they want. And they know how to do it. Meanwhile, some of us are still trying to set the clock on the VCR. (Just kidding.)
Before you give you kid a new device, you should learn as much about it as possible. How it works, what it does, it's limited, and it's possibilities. I mean, seriously, the Apple iPhone, is incredible with all the things it can do. But did you know that Apple runs classes to help you understand your device? They do. They're called Workshops, and most Apple stores offer them. What they do is help you learn about the device and how you can best use it wisely.
Aside from taking a class, there is a ton of information published about all sorts of devices. And with the push for better security and ways to keep kids safe while using the internet, there are some really great resources available for you. You just have to take the time to look and learn.
3. Be Proactive Instead of Reactive.
Okay, I will be honest, this is a tough one. When we stepped into the world of giving our kids their cell phones, we thought that we thought of everything. At the time, cell phones were still just phones. Then came the texting. Then came the internet. And well, now...you have the world at your figure tips. In the beginning, we set certain limits, restricted access, and controlled usage. While many parents were giving their kids iPhones, we held back until just about a year ago. I held off as long as possible simply because I didn't want my boys to have the access to the internet the way smart phones do.
But when we did finally get them their iPhone, I don't think we set enough of a standard and expectation as we should have. I mean, yes, we do set restrictions on their phones. We do random phone inspections. And we track who their texting, calling, and email. But we always wonder if we should be doing more. And that's why I say, be proactive.
This might not find favor with some people, but oh well. YOU ARE YOUR KID'S PARENT AND YOU HAVE THE GOD GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY TO BE THEIR PARENT. Somewhere, some how, parents have gotten the idea that it's better for us to be our kids friends, that we be cool and hip, and that it's better to just let them go and do their thing and learn for themselves. But that's stupid. I mean seriously, parents who throw parties for their kids and allow drinking to take place thinking it's okay because they're safe in their homes?! STUPID!!
The same can be said about technology. To simply give a kid a device without having a clear statement of expectations is stupid. You are literally asking for trouble if you do it. Instead, be proactive! Establish a set of ground rules for how and when personal electronic devices are used. Sit down with them and discuss the responsibility that comes with using a digital device. Make them aware of the dangers and the consequences for improper use. Agree on limits. Teach them boundaries. Download protective software. And be aware of what and where they are going and looking at.
The biggest mistake we make as parents is believing that are kids are smart enough not to get themselves into trouble. Then when they do, we're left to react to what might have been preventable. Being proactive isn't about lording restrictions and do's and don'ts over our kids. Being proactive is all about knowing and doing what's best for our kids because, guess what, they're kids and they don't always know whats best for them!
Like I said, this one is a tough one. Because once you've allowed your kids the freedom of device usage, it's really hard to take it back. So be proactive and establish the ground rules and consequences at the beginning of the experience instead of reacting to what has already happened.
Technology is a wonderful thing. In many, many ways, technology has made our lives easier, more productive, and maybe even us a little smarter. But technology also comes with it's dangers and risks. As parents, it's important that we are made aware of the risks and dangers so to better teach and train our kids how to use technology appropriately and properly. This school year, there will be a few new expectations established in the Higham house because the safety and integrity of our kids is at risk.
- the higham family
Hi we're Jay & Amy, and we've been married for 19 years and are super blessed to be busy raising our 5 kids; 4 boys and 1 girl. We juggle the adventures of life and ministry and share what we are learning as it relates to marriage, family, raising kids, serving in the church, and chasing after Jesus. Raising a family is hard work, especially in today's culture. But our hope is to encourage you and your family, as we live for the glory of God.
Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.