It’s been a while since I talked ‘family.’ Our kiddo’s are growing waaaay to fast and, as we approach the end of yet another school year, it is scary to think about how much has changed around here, even in just the last 12 months! As many of you will know, we had a power cut last week which knocked out our wi-fi router. As I mentioned, it was a long week but in lots of ways, it was soooo good to have my children back for a few days! That sounds so awful doesn’t it? I’m aware of how bad it sounds. The way in which we spent the week really brought to the forefront of my mind an issue which has been troubling me for quite some time now so I thought I would ‘share’ with you all. They say a problem shared is a problem halved don’t they?
Our daughter is 11 and our son is 9 and they both have access to iPads and laptops. When we decided that they would be allowed to use these devices, it was largely as a result of their insistence that they ‘needed’ them. All of their school homework was posted online and they often needed to use a computer to complete it. They assured us that they were the ONLY children left in the entire universe that didn’t have a device of their own! Hmmm, I’m not quite sure that was the case (in fact, I think the truth was being seriously stretched).
However, having given the issue significant consideration (and having got sick and tired of the constant arguing over my laptop) we decided to take the plunge and invest in some technology for the children. This was both the best and worst decision we have ever made! Don’t get me wrong, these devices and the ways in which they can be used are incredible! (Let’s remember that I am not exactly whiter than white when it comes to the issue of technology over-use! I have both a personal and blog Facebook and InstaGram account, I write a blog and share it with the world electronically. I know that there are two very strong sides to this argument!) If I’m honest, in situations where children are required to sit still and quiet for a extended period of time, these devices are an absolute gift from heaven! However, the trouble really starts when you need to get them away from the screen and back into the real world.
I have spoken to many friends and acquaintances who are parents and they all seem to be struggling with the same issue. Whether it be the family PC, a smart phone, a tablet, an Xbox or Playstation or even the Wii which was purchased with a dream of ‘family game nights,’ everyone seems to be facing the same dilemma. We all want our children to be accepted by their peers, we don’t want them isolated socially because they can’t take part in group messages, oovoo chats, FaceTime or IG direct messages, but at the same time, we want them to be a part of the family, we would quite like to spend some time with them every now and then and ideally, we’d like them to just put the sodding thing down once in a while! Speak to parents of older teenagers, and you hear a much more serious story. Hushed conversations reveal real concerns about burgeoning gaming addiction, unlimited access to pornography, cyber-bullying and young lives wasting away in front of a computer screen.
I do sometimes feel like the situation is spiralling out of our control and we often discuss ways in which we can act now in order to prevent more serious problems from developing further down the line. I really do feel strongly that we need to get a handle on this issue A.S.A.P! As a solution-driven person, I am always looking for ways to resolve a problem and I would love (seriously, really, please tell me) to hear how you are all dealing with this situation in your own homes (or if it’s even an issue). I really feel like I need advice on this! It seems like such a simple problem to solve but in reality, we don’t want our children to be the only ones whose parents are coming down hard on them. We don’t want to be fighting a constant battle. We want them to be happy, to be able to communicate and socialise with their friends, we don’t want them isolated or targeted for torment. But, our priority is our family, our time together and the health and well-being of our children. With that in mind, for what it’s worth, here are a few ways we have tackled, are tackling and are planning to tackle this issue with our own kids (with varying degrees of success and failure!) Please, share yours with me in the comments:
- Limiting the time spent on devices to a set period each day
- Only using devices at the weekend
- Confiscating devices one (or more) hour(s) before bed
- “Earning” device time with good behaviour and/or chores
- Turning off the Wi-fi at certain times of the day or week
- Not allowing the children to know the password to download new apps
- Linking all the children’s devices to our own Apple ID so that we share photo streams, apps, internet favourites and accounts.
- Setting parental controls with PIN codes known only to us.
- Talking regularly with our children about ‘self-monitoring’ and the need for time away from the screens.
- Encouraging them to participate in regular clubs and activities outside of the home.
- Not taking their devices everywhere with them.
- Discussing cyber-bullying and things which could harm themselves and others if shared online.
- Getting out of the house together regularly to enjoy time as a family
I realise that these are not always realistic and I know how hard it can be to encourage the children to spend their free time doing things other than the one thing they want most. It does feel a bit like we are quietly fighting a never-ending battle but it’s one we are determined to win! Don’t forget to share your tips for tackling this problem in the comments, I would love to hear from you.
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