Technology Needs Back to School Rules, Too
As kids get older, more and more of their school work is completed online. Homework assignments, research, and collaborating with their classmates on projects are now all completed through the Web instead of at the library — like we used to do it in the olden days.
Although laptops, iPads and mobile phones seem to be necessary for tweens and teens today, they also can be major distractions, and sometimes even harmful. Poor school performance, violent behavior, sleep pattern disturbances and obesity can all be linked to an increase usage of screen time, particularly if you include the television. And it can be tough for parents to determine when their kids are using technology for school and when it’s just for fun — and sometimes for both at the same time.
No kid likes their parents peeking over their shoulders constantly, so what’s a mom or dad to do to ensure their child stays on track now that school is back in session?
Set limits on accessibility to electronics. Most kids have a hard time resisting the urge to respond to a text or social media comment regardless of when it is received, and some teens are on their phones at all hours of the night. In fact, 24/7 accessibility to a cell phone or other electronics can severely impact the quality and quantity of sleep your child gets. Some teens think browsing social media or the Web helps them relax before bed, but usually it is the exact opposite. Insist your child charges their device in another room during the time in which they should be asleep. Take it a step farther by reducing usage during meal times or other family events as well.
Control the wireless codes. It’s hard to go anywhere in today’s world where you can’t access WiFi, but parents still have the upper hand when it comes to their own home. If you find your child is getting distracted by technology, change your WiFi codes daily to ensure he completes what he needs to finish at home before going online. Some parents make sure their kids complete certain chores or finish non-technology school assignments prior to getting the codes for the day. Not technologically savvy? Just unplug or move the wireless router when you don’t want it in use.
Monitor usage. There is a fine line between spying and monitoring your child’s online activity as your child gets older, and it is really a family decision in regards to how involved you want to be in your son or daughter’s online world; but at the minimum, parents should find a monitoring tool that gauges how much time your child is spending online, on social media sites, and texting. Teens often respond better to setting limits when you explain why too much screen time or exposure to certain media content is harmful (e.g., too much social media can hurt self esteem or overexposure to video games can increase aggression), so be sure to share why you are concerned and how much time they are actually spending on their electronic devices. Chances are they may be as surprised as you are.
Discourage multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is difficult for anyone, but for tweens and teens whose brains are not yet fully developed, it is a bad habit to start (and even more difficult to break). Discourage the use of too many electronic devices at the same time. Watching a movie? Put the iPad down. Researching information online? Take the headphones off. Doing homework? Turn off the phone. The less distractions available, the more efficient and effective your child will be at the task at hand.
Model good behavior. The other day I told my tween to get off the iPad. I was a little surprised when she asked if I was going to put down my phone. Touché. Sorry parents, but no matter how tempted we are to check e-mail, Facebook, or whatever else we may want, this is one time we need to talk the talk and walk the walk. Our kids are still watching our behavior even though it’s not as obvious now. If you make rules for electronics for your kids, try to follow them yourself.
Whitney Fleming is a freelance writer, communications consultant and blogger at www.playdatesonfridays.com. She is the mom to twin tween girls and another daughter following close behind.
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