Parents Brave to Keep Up With Ever-Changing Rules of Tech
I have always been fairly strict about monitoring my daughter’s screen time. Whether she’s watching TV, playing video games or just texting with her friends on her iPhone, I try to make sure it all adds up to no more than a couple of hours a day, and then only after all her homework has been completed.
However, as my daughter works her way through eighth grade, strict screen time rules have become harder and harder to enforce. And that’s not because of the increasing social pressure to keep up with Facebook or the constant Snapchat conversations; instead, it’s more about the blurring definitions of “OK” screen time and “other” screen time.
Take social networking as an example. Until now, it was fairly easy to classify Facebook and other social networks as “other” screen time. Not because I disapprove of Facebook (sadly, I spend way too much time there myself) but because it was clearly an after-homework activity and part of that two-hour-a-day screen time quota. And then along came My Big Campus.
My Big Campus is one of several educational social networks –- Edmodo is another –- that are finding their way into classrooms all over the country. Heavily promoted by school boards and principals, these online educational networks list homework assignments, encourage after-hours participation in school projects and are increasingly used as problem-solving discussion groups by teachers and students alike. Is this “OK” or “other” screen time? Clearly OK –- and therein lies the parental dilemma.
Of course, it’s not just social networks that are blurring the lines. How can you take away a computer if your child is using it to research a school project? And what’s wrong with reading a book on a Kindle or iPad? Shouldn’t we just be grateful that our kids are reading and leave the choice of format to them? As the latest iPad commercials remind us, you don’t even need a piano for piano lessons anymore; just a touchscreen and a quick visit to the App Store.
Parents have always been outsmarted by the pace of change of technology. Remember when we regarded video gaming as the providence of basement-dwelling social misfits only to be blown away by the Wii and then the Kinect? Or when we patted ourselves on the back for installing parental controls on all our home computers only to discover that everyone had gone mobile?
Technology and screens are such a part of the social and educational fabric of our kids’ lives that it’s no longer possible to set arbitrary limits on usage. Instead, we have to understand what they are using the technology for and make constant judgment calls about what’s appropriate. As many parents are discovering, it’s becoming increasingly harder to write one set of rules for digital age kids.
Do you have rules you try to adhere to? What strategies work best for you? Share them with us in the comments.
This post is part of a series on the dilemmas of raising digital kids. We’d like to hear some of the parenting issues technology has raised for you. Please let us know in the comments, or on our Mashable Lifestyle Facebook page. You can also follow and tweet us @mashlifestyle.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Sean Locke