Ten people sharing space under our one small-ish roof means that privacy is a premium luxury. It’s obviously something that is mandatory while using the restroom, taking a shower or getting dressed. But, other than that, it is a commodity found few and far between around here. Most especially when we are talking about electronics.
Oh, electronics. The bane of my motherly existence. I seriously have a love/hate relationship with smart technology and young people. I love being able to get a hold of my children within seconds (and it seriously must be within seconds: hell hath no fury if Mama calls and no one answers). I love the peace of mind of knowing if they need me, I am within their reach at all times.
But, I cannot stand seeing their faces hidden behind screens every time I look at them (but when I speak, they better look up). I despise the addictive quality of so many games and apps and I get so frustrated when their idea of hanging out with their friends consists of sharing the same couch while conversing with other people over their phones.
While I don’t think there are really any absolute right or wrong answers when it comes to technology expectations and limits within the home, like any house rules set in place, each family will respond and react to them differently. My husband and I have had a few guidelines of our own since our oldest received his first phone years ago and they continue to serve us well.
It is important to note that my children do not receive a phone of their own until Middle School. We feel at this point, they are mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes along with the device as well as understand and respect our 6 basic screen time rules.
6 Basic Screen Time Rules
1. No phones at the dinner table. AT ALL.
No exceptions — that includes parents.
2. No phones during homework time.
You need to concentrate on the work at hand. School is always first.
3. No game time during the school week and only on weekends after your chores are completed.
There is entirely too much going on during week nights between school work, after-school activities, sports and family obligations that there is NO way we can possibly add computer games appropriately into this time frame. In our home, game time is an earned commodity. They are played only after the completion of your responsibilities.
4. There is an alarm set on everyone’s phone that rings at 7:30 p.m. during the school week.
The 7:30 alarm means electronic hours are over and your phone must be turned into the phone/tablet basket immediately. No excuses, no exceptions. I firmly believe children need time away from electronics before bed to help turn their smarticles “off” for the night. My husband and I keep the chargers in our room and have a plug-in station for everyone’s stuff. Seriously. Go read a book, kids.
5. No phones in the morning until you have fully and completely prepared yourself for your school day.
And if you miss the bus because you were preoccupied on your phone and not paying attention to the time, you better start walking and you better be fast. Being tardy to school will not be accepted. (And in case you are curious, yes, my children have had to walk to school. And it was cold and raining. They have not had to walk since. I think they learned their lesson fairly quickly with this one.)
6. Your phone is not your property.
It does not belong to you. It belongs to us, your parents. We paid for the phone and we pay the monthly bill. You must ask permission before downloading any games or apps and I must have every password of yours written down so that I am able to access anything I choose on your phone. And if I choose to add a GPS Tracker app, a Mobile Monitoring app or a handful of apps I read about in a magazine designed for paranoid parents that make me feel more at ease, so be it.
Clearly “privacy” is something that is nonexistent when it comes to electronics in our home. We check our children’s phones nightly. We read their texts and scroll through their apps. We don’t do this to be overbearing or nosy. We don’t do it to be mean or strict. We do it because we love them and it is the only way we feel we can protect them. Does it annoy our children? Absolutely, yes. We don’t care, though.
Here’s the thing: that small, thin rectangle in their hands wields entirely too much power. There are so many unknowns out there in the world wide web. Too many predators to fear and way too much for any parent to fully comprehend or keep tabs on. I mean, I can’t even turn on the news anymore without hearing a horror story regarding a child, the internet and some sicko. Or a child hurting themselves due to online bullying that could have been prevented and dealt with if only the parents, school or authorities knew.
We may believe our children are “smart enough” or “mature enough” to make the right choices when faced with scary, unimaginable scenarios, but do we really know 100%? And is it worth the risk? I think not.
I’m totally cool with being the “Mean Mom” this time. And maybe, just maybe, some day far, far away, they just might thank me for these screen time rules.