We are a tech family. My husband owns his own IT company and I’m a writer, photographer, and blogger, so we are always on top of the newest trends in technology. We both have smart phones, touch-screen laptops and tablets, along with our desktops (both Mac and PC), and we love the convenience that comes with having solutions at our fingertips. But with small kids watching our every move, we have struggled with managing time on our mobile devices.
In the last few weeks, it’s become even more challenging, as our 8-year-old daughter received a “hand-me-down” iPod Touch for her birthday this year. Within a day, she was sneaking it into her room and wanting to play on it every moment. While I love that she is technologically inclined, I am very aware we need to manage her mobile time quite closely. This process is still a work in progress, but here are some techniques we’ve used to manage our family’s mobile tech time.
1. Daily Screentime Limits—Managing screentime in the summer can be so difficult, especially when you’re a work-at-home parent like I am. I struggle with needing peace and quiet so I can finish a project or an email, and it’s so easy to turn on a device to get the kids out of my hair. But the more time they seem to spend on the iPod and iPad, the more moody and cranky they tend to be! So I try and break it down into 30-minute chunks. We set a timer, and when it goes off the device is done for the time being. Our pediatrician recommends no more than two hours of screentime per day (this includes mobile devices, television, and computers), so I will give the kids the choice to use their screentime on a mobile device or the TV/computer. Once their two hours are used up, they are done (excepting special occasions, such as a family movie night).
2. Managing Device Security—All our mobile devices have passwords, both to use the device and to purchase anything on the device, such as games or apps. Only my husband and I have access to those passwords, so the kids can’t get on the devices without asking us first. I also change the passwords weekly, because I almost always end up telling our daughter what they are so she can turn something on while I’m on a call or in the midst of another task.
3. Monitoring Communications—One of the big reasons my daughter wanted an iPod was so she could FaceTime with friends over the summer while everyone was travelling with their families. Many of her friends already had devices that have this capability, so she was pumped to join in on the fun! But with that fun came new responsibilities for me as a parent. My daughter is not allowed to FaceTime without permission, and all FaceTime calls route through my iPhone, so I can see who is calling and when. The same thing applies with text messaging. IPods have the capability to “iMessage,” which allows the user to text without a phone line. I monitor all these as well, and she knows it, which will hopefully keep her honest about her communications.
4. Storage—Within a day after my daughter received the iPod, it was misplaced and missing for a bit. This was a huge frustration for me and for my child! Now all mobile devices must be left with me when they are not in use. The iPod and the iPad are stored either in my office or on my bedside table, so they can always be found. If they are not put back at the end of a usage period, the kids will lose access to them for a number of days.
What about your family? Do you have mobile devices in your home? How do you manage them with your children?