A few days ago a kind reader sent me the following email–just perfect for a blog post!
“How does your family organize computer time/accessibility? I am finding it increasingly difficult with many kids of different ages in the same household, and having the appropriate restrictions on the digital “stuff” around the house. We have a family home computer in the kitchen, my oldest has a laptop and a cell phone, one has a Kindle, and two boys have an iTouch. All of these devices can access the internet, and I have yet to find parental controls that can be tailored to different ages. We are struggling so much with this. It’s mainly me! I am struggling with what to allow them to use and how often. “
I have noticed that there are two things that are causing constant vigilance and reassessment in our rules about technology use in our home, and those are — the kids keep getting older and technology keeps changing! It was so easy to set rules when they were young. Here’s an example of something that just snuck up on me. None of our kids have phones yet, so I hadn’t thought through rules on that yet. But on the last iOS update to my son’s iPod touch, they made a way to “message” others, which is just like texting. He told me he was texting his cousin through his iPod. So, new rules were made!
1. Talk about why media needs to be limited.
Pornography is insidious and destructive. Our kids need straight talk about it (as soon as they’re mature enough), so that they can have more power to resist it. They need accountability, just like adults do, so have regular talks about whether they have accidentally seen something on their device or whether others have shown them something on theirs. Media can also be addicting–games, Facebook, even blogging. All of us need to practice moderation and set appropriate limits for ourselves and our kids. Decide what those are, write them down, and keep each other accountable. For example, my oldest is not allowed to play games in bed at night.
2. Have rules and enforce them.
Here are some of the rules we have in our home right now. Only educational movies during the week; fun movies just on the weekend (and usually just Friday and Saturday nights).
No TV ever, except for occasional sports events–and then we mute the commercials. (We have rabbit ears for that!).
No computer during the week, unless it’s for schoolwork. I’m the only one with an iPad, and the kids don’t know my passcode; they can’t pick it up and play it when they want to. When I do give them a turn, it’s only 20 minutes during the week or 30 on the weekends (and they are not to expect that they will receive a turn every day). I always turn off everything I can when I hand it over to them (such as Safari internet browser and Installing Apps–keeps them out of the AppStore). Adding friends and multiplayer games are always turned off. There is a way to lock everything so that just one app is available–this is great for the littlest ones.*
My oldest got an iPod Touch for his 11th birthday. He never has Safari internet browser turned on, and I’m the only one who has the code for it. Also, I have to approve every app he puts on it by typing my own iTunes password, which he doesn’t know. He’s only allowed 1 hour a day on it, and only after he’s completed all schoolwork, chores, and instrument practice. He knows that it’s a privilege for him to have it and as parents, we have the right to take it away if there is any reason to do so.
Always remember, you’re the parent!
3. Have internet filters.
I agree that parental controls are very difficult to figure out. We have internet filtering and parental controls to block out many websites on the computer, and I’m the only one who knows the password. It’s a password that isn’t used for anything else. Of course, there are always things that sneak through, so it’s best to only limit the kids to certain websites that you deem safe. Here are a couple of newer things that suddenly caught me off guard with my kids using them–Spotify and Instagram. You must always be vigilant! I am around when we need to surf the web for research. Talk to your kids openly about Internet safety–about not giving their name or address out. Let them know that there are predators out there, just like the strangers who drive down the street and talk to kids.
4. Reassess things often.
Talk with your husband and with your kids. Rules will need to be changed often as the kids grow older and as technology changes. Encourage everyone to be open; we don’t want our kids to hide things from us.
This should be first! Remember James 1:5 which tells us that God will give us wisdom. All we need to do is ask and believe!
A good book to read that addresses this subject is Six Ways to Keep Good in Your Boy by Dannah Gresh. . (By the way, the review I wrote about this book has been “pinned” 31,000 times on Pinterest. Lots of moms see this as an extremely important issue!)
And a great video to watch: “Captivated“. I heard Philip Telfer speak at a homeschool conference, and he has a lot of wisdom about technology. They even have a study guide to help you guide your family in studying why media is so powerful and why we need to set limits. Here’s a YouTube on it.
Do you have other suggestions for ways to set media limits for our kids? Please share with a comment!
*Settings/General/Accessibility/Guided Access — to lock your iPad into a particular app
(This post contains affiliate links)