The beginning of a school year is a good time for families to set limits, explain rules, and in general, clarify expectations about technology use. Getting started in the fall, when everyone is off to a new grade and a fresh beginning, encourages healthy tech habits.
Depending on the age of your children, you may want to accomplish some or even all of the tasks on this list, encouraging everyone to think responsibly and become committed digital citizens.
Nine Back-to-School Technology Tasks
1. Place computers in central, well-traveled locations — away from bedrooms and private spaces.
2. Be sure adults, not children, are administrators on the computers and devices in your home — including laptops and other digital devices.
3. Print and post rules and expectations next to each computer. Specify the times when you do not want your children using computers. Emphasize that your family rules are in effect when children go to a friend’s house. Share my digital citizenship poem that highlights issues to consider.
4. Ask your children to help you come up with a strategy that they can use when inappropriate digital world activities occur. Concentrate on the ideas about digital health and wellness rather than focusing on dos and don’ts.
5. If children have mobile phones, plan a discussion about appropriate use, including texting, and limitations on a phone’s digital camera. Download a PDF of my cell phone contract.
6. Develop homework ground rules. What other media will you allow during homework time? Will a cell phone be near the homework spot? A DVD player? Will chat be running on the computer? Read my post Multitasking is a Myth.
7. Choose a place to put all family cell phones and BlackBerries during family meals. No gadgets at the dinner table. Read the book Hamlet’s Blackberry, by William Powers, for a wonderful overview of the digital influences in our lives and how we might balance technology and non-technology experiences. (NPR Story about the book) Also, charge all technology devices outside of the bedroom.
8. Discuss the difference between intentions and consequence, especially how words on an e-mail or text message can mean one thing to the sender and another thing to the receiver.
9. Complete an inventory in each child’s bedroom. How much media are available that can interfere with the child’s sleep? Can you find ways to decrease the distractions? If you have any doubt about the portrayal of pre-adolescents and teens in the media and the potential harm that unlimited media influence inflicts, check out some of the resources and policy statements from HealthyChildren.org, an arm of The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as well as some of the other media resources that are available from the organization’s website.
Related Back-to-School/Digital Wellness Resources
- Common Sense Tips for Digital Generation Parents – Edutopia Website
- Teens & Cellphones: Manners A Primer Parts I and II – The Well-Connected Mom
- Common Sense Media Internet Safety Tips – Common Sense Media
- A digital health and wellness poem to get kids thinking about the challenges of their activities in the connected world.