Why technology is the one area of our family that’s not fair
We want to talk more about media with our kids, but we’re not always sure how. This post is part of a series celebrating our newest resource, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, which offers tools to help parents think differently about digital media, talk more about it together, and be inspired by the ideas of other parents navigating these same waters day after day. Join the community of families who are #navigatingdigitally.
We try to keep things “fair” among our kids. At least sort of.
Nathan started making his own lunch in second grade. When Krista and Jessica entered second grade, we expected the same of them.
Krista got her ears pierced when she was ten. When Jessica turned ten, she had that same opportunity.
We’re not always perfect. Far from it. But we don’t want our kids to think we play favorites.
But we’ve told all our kids that technology won’t be fair.
Just because Nathan was allowed to set up a Facebook account when he turned 13 doesn’t mean the girls will get the same social media access (or that they’ll want to).
Even though Nathan got a smartphone when he turned 14 (he was one of the last kids in his grade to get one), the other two couldn’t just assume one would be headed their way when they hit that age.
When it comes to technology, we’ve told our kids that they need to show us they are responsible.
There are two types of responsibility.
The first is taking care of your devices. And for our child who left their “dumb phone” (as they call it) in their shorts and it went through our washing machine, you lost some responsibility points that day. (And yes, that child had to spend their own money to replace that phone, which luckily for them, wasn’t all that expensive).
But that’s the easier type of responsibility. It’s pretty clear-cut for everyone.
The second type of responsibility—showing us you make good choices in how you use technology and digital media—is much tougher. For our kids. And for us.
Some of the questions we’re discerning as we assess their progress in that type of responsibility are:
- Do you obey the guidelines that our family has agreed upon in terms of when, how, and where you can use your devices?
- Do you have a history of making good decisions when new temptations or opportunities arise that we don’t have rules about?
- Is your technology helping or hindering your relationships with our family? I love it when my kids text me. I hate it when I’m trying to talk to my kids and I can tell they are distracted by the presence of their devices (even if they aren’t on their devices, if those devices are nearby, they still have a strong gravitational pull).
- Is the way you use technology affecting your homework or chores? One of our children had been chatting on Facetime with friends while doing homework. Social life benefitted, but grades suffered. So the rule with that child is now “no Facetime until homework is done.” We haven’t set up that rule with the other two. They haven’t seemed to need it. So far.
Parents, be fair in other areas. But you do not need to be fair with your child’s exposure to technology and digital media. The stakes are too high. Know each child and create the best support and boundaries for them individually.
What else do you do to try to assess if your kids are ready for the social media portal or device they are begging for?