As many of our kids have returned, or are in the process of returning back to school, we should expect to see different behavior patterns in their usage of devices.


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    Hopefully one of those changes will be to use them for studying.

    As parents we want our kids to have a balanced life of being online while still appreciating the need to have life skills, such as actually speaking. Our concerns are not new, back when the wireless (radio) was invented I am sure parents told their kids to stop listening to that box, in the same way my parents told me I would get square eyes if I watch too much TV.

    Controlling the balance can be tricky, especially when our kids only know a life that’s online and the normal way to communicate. It’s important that device time is understood as a privilege and not a right. Some parents have contracts with their kids stating what is expected of them when using a device, while others do nothing and some block or monitor access.

    When thinking about screen time one of the first things to do is walk around the house and count the numbers of devices that are connected. Many of us forget that games consoles and some toys are now connected devices, so asking your child to put down their phone just to see them pick up another connected device might not be achieving the goal of having a balance.

    In my house we strike the balance through communication and education, this has worked well for us. One of the first things we implemented was ‘the basket’, a place where phones live during meals times and overnight. This drives conversation at the meal table and texting, posting or gaming late at night has never been an issue. The biggest challenge here is can you as an adult commit to putting your phone in the basket!

    Understanding what your kids do online is important. Effective monitoring through parental control software or using software on an internet router, such as the Ally System, supported by AVG, from Amped Wireless will give you oversight that will allow you to have conversations about inappropriate use and behavior. The insight of knowing that your child is spending 3 hours a day on social media should encourage you to have a conversation about time well spent.

    Many of these technologies also offer the ability to block, while blocking inappropriate content is a good idea limiting your kids access through blocking will push them underground to connect in other locations such as public libraries, coffee shops or their friends house. And remember their smart phone probably has it’s own access. My point here is that you cannot control their access everywhere, so it is better to educate them having the knowledge of what is being accessed so that they behave well wherever they are and they have the principals to stay safe.

    Another important element to limiting both screen time and keeping them safe is understanding the functionality of the apps they run. Listen to your kids talking to their friends about what they use, talk to them to find out and then go off and download the same apps.