I can remember it like it was yesterday. My children were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades when they received their first electronic devices as Christmas presents. CJ got an iPod Touch, Tyra got a Pandigital eReader, and Jada a Nintendo DSi XL. After their entry into the digital world, they have never turned back and at 7th, 8th, and 9th grades they each have a phone, tablet, and laptop computer.
Through the years, I’ve learned a lot about monitoring my kids technology usage. It hasn’t always been easy, but each day is an opportunity to learn something new. Let’s start the conversation with some of the things I’ve learned.
- 12-year-old children really want a Facebook account. They’ve heard a lot of cool things about Facebook. Once they turn 13 and actually get one, they hate it. They hate it because their parents and their parents friends and their older cousins, and their aunts and uncles are on active on Facebook. A prerequisite for Facebook in my house is a list of about 30 family members and friends that the child needs to friend. I of course, have already sent those friends and family members a message asking them to extend their membership in our village to all things social media.
- Technology contracts are very helpful when allowing children access to devices. All three of mine signed contracts four years ago, and the contracts included a clause that said it was still binding if they got other devices. The tech contracts included participating in or witnessing cyber-bullying without telling an adult, hours for tech usage, rules for appropriate photos and content, and passwords — which always have to be kept on file with me.
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3. On any social media platform, we must all friend and follow each other. And we must also agree on how much information we share about our private family matters.
4.If there’s a social media platform that they want, but I’m unfamiliar with, I ask someone younger and smarter before I approve it. Last fall I had heard of SnapChat but I really didn’t understand it. The girls really wanted accounts. I asked my 25-year-old cousin about it and gave him the ability to say yay or nay. He didn’t know much about it, so he opted for nay. Meanwhile, I took the next three months to establish my account, learned how it worked, talked to older teens I know about using it, and by this February, they had the accounts and I knew exactly what to watch out for.
5. Use mistakes as teaching moments. Anytime we are watching the news and there is a story on regarding the dangers of naivety and tech usage, I make sure they understand in plain terms the consequences. If there are no news stories that week, I’ll find an old news story on the internet and we must discuss it. as a family. And even after all of that, they do make mistakes and I use those as teaching moments as well.
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