Parental Web Filtering, Wrestling against the techno-powers that be? Sometimes feel like murdering Minecraft? Flogging Facebook? Trashing Twitter? Shattering Snap chat? Injuring Instagram? (Okay, I took the alliteration too far.)
But seriously, sometimes it seems like our kids are actually glued to their devices, unable to so much as acknowledge us. There was a time when my son would happily greet me with a running hug upon arrival at home. Now? I’m lucky to get a grunt as he stares at his screen.
What’s a parent to do?
Some parents I know literally go around the house with a basket, physically enforcing family rules by having the kids relinquish their devices- like some kind of gun buy-back program. While this may be tons of fun, it seems a little confrontational … or, at least, inconvenient. Other parents simply say, “No devices until you’re 18!”
But such a rule is not practical for all families. Surely there are some “happy medium” approaches that don’t require manhandling iPods away from children, or signed-in-blood agreements regarding online behavior.
Good news … there are!
There are a few different options available (Parental Web Filtering) for keeping your home safe from harmful online content while managing the amount of time kids (and adults!) spend connected to the outside world via ones and zeros. A few choices:
1. Decide to do it- together. The journey of a thousand successful electronics battles begins with the first step. Or something like that. Seriously, if you have any hope of getting everyone on board, you need to, well, get everyone on board. That means having a family discussion about what the rules should be regarding electronics in the home, who they should apply to (hint: everyone), and how they should be enforced – along with clear consequences for violations.
This may sound authoritarian, but if everyone contributes to the conversation, they’ll feel ownership and will be more likely to comply. In fact, you may find your kids reminding YOU of the rules sometimes! My son is quick to police others, making him more apt to be policed. And that only works because we all made the rules together.
2. Lead by example. Our kids see and emulate everything we do and say. We can hardly blame them for being focused on devices at the dinner table if we have our own phones out. Make a rule that you observe yourself: phones away at dinner time. Don’t be a hypocrite. It feels icky.
3. Share. Technology, by its very nature of connecting us to the outside world, can be isolating within our own homes. In our home, the grownups may want to eat while watching a show, but the kids would rather eat upstairs enjoying their own movie. While this flexibility is great sometimes, it’s important to choose electronic entertainment that all can enjoy together from time to time. Pick a family flick- even if it’s not your first choice- and make it family time.
Also, it’s easy to complain about the kids’ video games, but rather than let games be divisive like that, try playing with them sometimes. I find that playing a little Minecraft with my son provides some “us” time, and gives us something to talk about and relate to when we’re spending some tech-free time together. Sharing moments doesn’t always have to be device-free to be meaningful.
4. Use the tools. We rely on our calendars on our phones to remind us of all the things in life we need to do … except unplugging. There’s some irony in that. But there are actually technological tools that can help us manage our screen time and get the family together for dinner, or offline for bedtime. One example is Router Limits, a comprehensive web management system that works on all the internet-capable devices on your home WiFi network.
You can use it to schedule homework time, dinner time, bed time, family time … all on the device level, with no software to install. We love the flexibility it gives us, and it’s so easy to use, we hardly know it’s there (though our son certainly knows it’s there come bedtime!).
5. Strive for balance. It’s not all about returning to the 19th century, hand plowing the fields, and lighting up the kerosene lantern at night. But there are certainly healthy benefits to getting outside, reading dead-tree books, and participating in non-electronic stuff. Perhaps set up a system where screen time must be earned by doing chores or doing other non tech
stuff. Just beware: you don’t want to make good things like playing outside and reading into punishments.
Kids will grow to resent the things that seem to “keep them” from getting their techno-fix. Make sure the balanced activities are presented in as positive a light as possible. This can be tough, and requires a careful decoupling of the two worlds so that they aren’t presented as enemies of each other, but rather complements to each other.
6. Simplify to accommodate the complex. We all have lots going on. Work, school, maintaining the home, extracurricular activities, friends, other family members … While most of these things can be scheduled, so much also happens in an unplanned way that’s out of our immediate control.
By setting up very simple rules regarding electronics, such as, “No Minecraft until homework is done,” you can better accommodate the things that come up that can complicate your normal plans. (The tool in item #4 on this list can help with that.) Bottom line: keep things easy, so it’s not so hard when things get hard.
7. Don’t give up. It can be frustrating, at times, to feel like you’re losing ground to our evil robot overlords. But the fight is worth it. Find ways to keep it fun. Turn the negatives into positives. Use the tools at your disposal. Find common ground. And keep on trying.
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