4 Tech Parenting tips for the Start of the Year

Written by Rachael Yates and Dr Matt O’Connor

The start of the school year is a great time for families to commence the year effectively and positively with regards to tech use. However, if you didn’t, and wish you had, the great news is it’s not too late! Read on for 4 tips to start the year well with tech.

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1. Boundaries and Agreements

The best way to manage technology in your home is to make a Family Tech Agreement which clearly outlines the boundaries for tech use. When you implement your family tech agreement, include your whole family. Listen and negotiate the agreements. Perhaps give warning and ask all to come prepared with their ideas for inclusion. This will vary greatly from one family to the next. Make sure you all understand the consequences for breaching the agreement, but on the other hand, consider rewarding good use.

The website Healthychildren.org provide a customisable media plan that you can use to assist the creation of your family’s agreement. They suggest updating frequently, even for weekends or holiday periods. Through this plan you can think about what would work for your family, but key inclusions are:

  • Where are our screen free zones and times?

  • What are our device curfews?

  • How will we balance our online and offline time?

Another option that many parents find valuable is the use of parental controls. These tools provide you with the ability to monitor and limit what your child does online. There are a variety of methods such as software (e.g. Qustodio, Family Zone and Disney Circle);  as well as built in controls for different devices such as Screen Time on iPads, Windows Family Safety and Mac OSX.

2. Communication and Relationships

The second tip highlights the importance of maintaining positive relationships and communication with your child. Whilst boundaries are crucial, it is also helpful to explain why the rules are in place – that is to protect and teach them about the potential online risks. It’s not about a lack of trust, more a lack of knowledge and experience, and a lack of trust of others online.

Many parents also find relationships are developed by being involved in your child’s tech use. By being interested, sitting down and letting them explain what they are doing online, why they enjoy it, can enhance your parent child relationships. Be curious and ask questions.

By maintaining an open relationship, you can let your child know that you will always support them and encourage them to come to you in difficult times even if they have done something wrong. Let them know you will always support them through situations, even if they have done something they might regret. Keep communication open and calm, even though your insides might not be feeling calm!

3. Balance

It’s ok to allow our children time having fun on technology. This will look quite different from one to the next – some might be into gaming, while others enjoy connecting with friends and family. However, they need to learn how to balance their time and to exercise moderation. Parents can support this by setting boundaries and staying connected, as mentioned above. Furthermore, parents can help them balance their time and include a variety of activities such as exercise, school work, play, time with family and friends. Benefits will be gained through keeping kids and teens busy and productive, especially with things they love or at least enjoy. The more they’re involved the better they will do across the board.

4. Set a good example

Parents need to lead by example with their own tech use as this can send strong messages to children about acceptable device use. As mentioned above parents need to be included in the Family Tech Plan. If the rule is that there are no phones at the dinner table, this rule also needs to apply to parents. The Raising Children website offers some ideas for healthy tech use and setting a good example, including:

  • Be in the moment with your child – phone free time such as meal time, after school/work, watching them play sport

  • Don’t let a text message interrupt your conversation – wait until you’re finished before checking your phone

  • Have device free bedrooms. All household devices should be left to charge in a common space overnight

When dealing with tech and your children, the ideal parenting scenario is to start each year the way you intend to continue. Also, ideally you will have been doing this since your child had any access to devices. However, it can be acknowledged this this is often not the case so whilst it’s difficult to take things back once in place with your child, it’s not impossible. It will require a lot of consistency and strength not to back down but will be worth it in the long run.

I will be presenting a session with Dr Matt O’Connor in the free seminar program at the National Education Summit Brisbane on 31 May and 1 June 2019.

I will also be presenting in the Digital Classrooms conference at the Summit.

You can download a full Program overview here

Please come by and say hello.

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