Technology is an integral part of life, education and work in the world today. So how do we ensure that our children use the technology appropriately and effectively?
As a high school teacher, parents regularly ask what guidelines can be followed to ensure that our children know how to use technology safely. Below are a few tips that I pass on to these parents:
• Set the computer up in a centralised location.
• Provide docking locations were devices can be charged and stored (not in bedrooms)
• Allow portable devices in family/living areas or the study where everybody has access to the space and you can monitor the behaviour and activities
• Start conversations about appropriate usage, this begins as soon as children begin to interact with the technology NOT when they sign up for Facebook/Twitter etc.
• Negotiate appropriate time for social media and gaming and insist that the devices continue to be used in public locations
Setting the Computer in a Central Location This allows you to monitor the activities of the teenager. You can informally discuss their homework, ask who they are chatting with and general know what they are up to. They won’t want to share everything that they are doing and that is ok, but they are less likely to do or write something silly if they know that you are watching on.
Check the tabs that are open in the browser before they start their homework
Docking Locations Having a space where all of the phones, devices and chargers can be stored and charged. Mum and Dad should lead by example so when devices are not being used in family spaces (not bedrooms) then they are at the docking station. This could be in a study, on a table at the entry to the house with keys or any other family space, even the shelf in a cupboard (to keep the place tidy- you may need to have an additional power point installed).
Family Spaces As our children grow we teach them to behave in particular ways in different spaces. Bedrooms are private spaces where each individual can have their own space to do “their thing”. Family spaces are shared spaces for recreational activities and family time. Recreational activities including computer use should occur in family spaces to allow observation of the children’s activities.
Conversations From the very beginning, encourage your children to talk to you about what they are doing, what they are playing and thinking. If you do this from an early age the transition to discussions about more difficult topics such as appropriate technology use is just that bit easier!
When we have young children we will often offer them a game on our iPhone or Android device. Have them participate in the selection process. Have them pick the game they would like to play (usually the free educational ones!) play it with them for the first time to show them how and then explain what is good about the game or not so good. Currently my 2.5yo son loves playing a matching shape game. We talk about how it is good that he is learning his shapes, we also limit the activity to about 10 minutes. Already you are scaffolding the boundaries for technology use as your child grows.
Talk to your children informally whilst they are using the technology
Time and Locations With schools moving away from the traditional textbook/note book media it is sometimes difficult to tell if your children are using the technology for legitimate study purposes looking at textbooks, class worksheets or researching projects or if they are chatting on social media and playing games. It is necessary to teach your child balance between the two activities.
Having them close all social media and gaming sites when engaged in study will help to ensure that their full focus is on the task at hand. Explain that when they finish their work (to a satisfactory standard) that they are then able to use the other applications. It may even work better to allow social media access 30mins prior to homework time and then 30mins following homework time. Be strict with the timing and negotiate with your child the most effective way to ensure that they can participate in both activities. Again remember to keep them in a Family space where you can monitor the time.
Educating our children about appropriate uses of technology begins from the first time we allow them access to a device. Teaching our children self-respect, appropriate communication and encouraging discussions about their current and future activities opens the communication avenues. Remember our children are programmed to test us. Listen to what they are saying, have them explain their position and then reciprocate (at times easier said than done!), this process develops communication skills in your children and assists them to make good choices in all aspects of their lives.