Now that we are all returning to school routines, take the time to make a few 21st Century family decisions — choices that can help the device-users in your family grow more careful, thoughtful, and serious about their connected world responsibilities. With so much going on the digital world, parenting today is a bit like riding a roller coaster. But some carefully considered decisions can set the stage for fewer digital world scrapes and bumps in a family’s life.
1. Where will digital devices be charged at night? Most educators recommend that families charge devices in a centralized location away from bedrooms. Many parents also set an evening time limit after which mobile phones, iPads, and even the Internet cannot be used.
2. If students have significant amounts of online homework, where will they work? Dining room table? Family room? Den? Most educators and pediatricians suggest that students do homework on computers that are located in places where other people also spend time and not in the bedroom. Check out How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn over at the KQED Mindshift website.
3. Will you, as a parent, model appropriate and safe device use when you drive? This is a digital parenting challenge for many adults today. When fifth graders made digital citizenship posters at my school last year, the most popular project topic was “Don’t Text When You Drive.” Read a HealthDay article about the problem, Many Parents Texting, Phoning While Driving Their Kids. Also, spell out your expectations for family members one of these contracts and agreements.
4. Who controls the passwords that allow children to download apps onto digital devices? Most educators and educational technology specialists recommend that parents control the app store passwords until they are certain that their children can make mostly good downloading decisions. Adults need to know what apps children install on their iPads or smartphones.
5. What times will you designate as device-free times? Family meals? Short car rides? Certain activities on weekend days? In our connected culture everyone, including parents, needs times away from their devices — times that encourage personal conversation and face-to-face interaction. Figure out when these times should be for your family and schedule them. Check out a New York Times article, Learning to Let Go: First Turn Off the Phone. Or read Hamlet’s Blackberry about one family’s experiment with device-free times.
Think carefully about these questions, come up with some answers, and have a great school year!