Every other day, my kids come home from school talking about the Next New Thing in technology:
“His dad got a smartphone, and it has this cool app!“
“Their mom got a tablet, and she lets them play on this awesome website!“
“This game system does this…that game system does that!”
The ever-changing technological landscape is one of the greatest challenges modern parents face. The number of decisions we have to make about our kids’ access to devices and social media is staggering, and it changes so fast it sets our heads spinning. Just when we think we have a handle on our kids’ relationship to technology, some new device comes along. Every time something new comes up, we have to reevaluate what works and doesn’t work for our family, and for each of our kids as individuals.
When our son became obsessive about playing iPad games last year, we learned a hard lesson about the importance of being proactive and strategic about devices and technology. And the thing is, it happened all of a sudden, and completely by accident. We didn’t give our son a tablet of his own; we weren’t trying to introduce something new—it just . . . happened. My husband got an iPad for his birthday, and one day he played a game of Plants Vs. Zombies with our son. And before we could say, “The zombies ate your brains!”, we had a problem: Within a matter of weeks, our son had become a zombie! These 26 questions were born out of our family’s quest to bring our son back from the land of the Walking Dead, take charge of technology in our family (instead of the other way around!), and establish the kind of family atmosphere we wanted to have.
Here are 26 questions every parent should consider about technology use in your family, including smartphones and cell phones, mp3 players, handheld games, video game systems, tablets, laptops, and computers. (If you’re married, you’ll want to discuss these questions with your spouse to make sure both spouses are on the same page.) The first 13 are questions to ask about the devices and technology your family already uses. The second 13 are questions to ask before you introduce a new device to your family.
13 questions to ask about devices and technologies you have already introduced:
1. Has this technology brought our family closer together, or pushed us apart?
2. Do we have clear guidelines in place?
3. How does this game/phone/computer/tablet benefit our family?
4. Has the way we use this device changed or harmed our family in some way?
5. Can our child disengage easily from using this device?
6. Has this device changed our child’s behavior, personality, or mood in any way?
7. Has our child lost interest in other activities or relationships since we introduced it?
8. Can our child entertain himself/herself without this technology . . . in their free time? at a restaurant? in a waiting room? while riding in a car?
9. Have we set up age-appropriate parental controls and blocks on this device?
10. Does our child understand and respect the parents’ obligation to monitor the device, and respect our right to take it away if need be?
11. Does our child view usage of this device as a privilege, or a right?