I love my iPhone and iPad, and I cannot do many things without them. For children under 13, however, use time should be carefully monitored by each family. Kids today are playing independently with powerful devices, and they — the devices and the children — are not intended to interact in isolation and for long periods without adult supervision.
An article that provides food for thought, Your Phone Versus Your Heart, appeared in the March 23, 2013 New York Times. Also, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics media resources — the pediatricians are making recommendations because they know what they are talking about.
Just today I asked a group of device-savvy fifth graders, most around age 10, if they know anything about SnapChat, the app that deletes pictures in one to ten seconds (leaving plenty of time for a recipient with poor judgment to take a screenshot and save the photo). Just about every hand went up. During a lesson a few months ago I asked them how many of them know how to make a screenshot — and they can all do it in a lot less than ten seconds. Read my SnapChat review here.
A Few Social Media Supervision Suggestions
1. Save Facebook, Google+, and other big-time social networking experiences for late middle and high school.
2. Know your child’s passwords and what apps are on the digital devices. Teach yourself how to use your child’s digital devices (or, better yet, ask your child to teach you).
3. Keep online computer activities out of the bedroom. Also, plan on no-screen, wind-down time during the last half hour before bed. (Yes, this includes those bedtime-friendly Kindles – why not use bedtime-friendly books?)
4. Set up an overnight charging area for cell phones and other gadgets outside of the bedroom, preferably on another floor or part of your home.
5. Consider writing up digital device contracts and using these agreements with your child. Check out this list of quality user agreements and contracts. Take away privileges, or even the device, if your expectations are not met.
7. Supervise. Accept only compelling reasons for digital device/social networking activities during homework time. Yes, your child may need to use the computer or the digital device for homework or resource materials, but take the time to supervise, because a lot less learning occurs when kids are flitting back and forth between schoolwork and social networking activities. You can also consider giving your child a social networking break in the middle of homework time.
8. Download apps for your children and check them out first. Check out my recent post on Fraudulent Apps that arrive via text. You may also want to explore AppAdvice.com since kids as young as fourth grade have told me how useful the site is for learning about new apps.
9. Set yourself up as the administrator of home computers and laptops as well as portable devices. In grades 5-8 (and even longer) children should not be the administrators of any computer or gadget.
10. For school assignments and research projects, help your children learn how to search with curated online library databases — rather than merely searching on Google. They will retrieve information of higher quality and learn lots more in the process of searching. You can use these, too. Read my August 2010 post, Using Curated Online Databases for Research.