Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tweens and Technology: The personal iPad

A little bit of background first...My husband is a bit of a Techie.  He is an electrical engineer by training and works in the tech field.  We have an old iPad, and old iTouch and an old iPhone - and we let the kids play with those on roadtrips.  Mostly they just watch movies that we have loaded up to help pass the time.  I have an iPhone with exactly 2 games on it.  The kids rarely ask to borrow my phone (it is boring) and they know better than to even touch my new (password protected) laptop! Thanks Santa. 

A little while back, Anthony (11) decided that he wanted ‘his own’ device because although we have the other ones, they are really just for trips.  So he saved his allowance, and saved his birthday money, and eventually purchased an iPad-mini on his own (with our permission).   In the past year that he has owned it, we have had one issue related to playing an online game – Clash of Clans.   He accepted someone into his clan who he did not know in real life.

After discussing our concerns he chose to close up his clan and stop playing online games entirely.   The whole experience really freaked him out and I am glad he was able to see how easy it is to fall into a 'friendship' with a perfect stranger. 

I heard something on one of the Catholic radio shows that really stuck with me at right while we were discussing this with him. 
The point was made that no matter how great your kid is, technology allows things to be introduced, that he or she is not yet ready for.  They don't even have to seek out these things, they can just stumble upon them.   Side note - did you know that a lot of addiction to porn can start with kids who are just in the 8-12 range?  It happens on accident when they are doing searches for other stuff and they stumble across.  Gross.

The internet provides another ground for moral temptations, and gives them access to things that previous generations would not have had as easily.  We have more handheld devices than do many homes, and with that comes an increased vigilance required on the part of us, the parents. 

And it is not just the internet.  I think back to a friend who walked past her pre-teen daughter’s room and heard a boy’s voice.  The daughter was on the iPad video chatting with a boy rather than just talking on the phone.  The daughter didn’t understand the big deal – they were just talking.  She is a great kid, but for my husband and I, it pointed out the need for the rules to be clearly established first. 

With my son’s i-Pad he saved and saved and it is truly HIS device.  He has his music on the device and he listens to that (with headphones) while studying in the kitchen after dinner.   Can we still take it away from him? Sure.  But it is a lot more difficult to justify restrictions and to use it in our punishment/reward system when he bought it himself.  We won't make that mistake with a phone!  

Of course we have family rules about screen time and limiting the amount of online or TV or gaming time for all the kids.  Those still apply for him as well.  We laid out some basic rules for use - He asks permission before downloading apps and all his games are pre-approved.  His texts are mirrored to my husband and he can only text when he is somewhere with wi-fi.   He can use it in his room (for music) when he is working on homework.  All chores need to be done before he plays any games and he needs to ask permission before playing any games or going online. 

Here is the thing. I was pretty sure we had talked about the rules before he got the iPad, but not sure enough to take away his device when he was 'cheating'.  I had really delegated the techie stuff to his dad, but I was the one around to 'enforce' the rules.   

Which leads me to the importance of putting things in writing.  Our children's frontal lobes are really not well formed yet, so sometimes they aren't able to really think ahead as well as we would like.  Add the poorly formed brain and things like the 'personal fable' (the phenomenon that although adolescents know real dangers exist, they never see themselves as being potential victims  of anything bad), and you have a recipe for some major slips.  Of course sometimes they are just manipulating us too.  

So we are putting in all the parental blocks now before we need them, and laying out the laws in writing.  Which is why you will note that our son has to ask permission before going online.  Both my husband and I want the kids only using the internet at the desktop computer in the kitchen, but we didn't want to put that in the contract.  Therefore we say "ask permission each time" so that we can direct him to the desktop and be sure we can check what is going on there. 

Here is our contract: 

*My parents have the right to suspend my electronics privileges at any time, but I have the right to know where my device is being kept if it is taken away from me.  This is because I often loose their stuff after I confiscate it! Opps. 

*The iPad may be charged and can remain in my bedroom.

*I will ask permission before using the device for any purpose and I will inform my parents before I use headphones for my music. don't mind the music - but I need to know that he can hear me when I am yelling for him from across the house. 

*Device curfew in the house is 8pm during the week and 9pm on the weekend.  Electronic use before bed can actually increase insomnia so I want there to be a little time with not use before he zonks out. 

*If my iPad is lost or broken, I will be financially responsible for replacing it, regardless of who is at fault because ultimately I am responsible for my own things. 

*I will not download applications without permission from my parents.

*At any time my parents may require that I delete an app even if previously approved. 

*I will ask permission before going online and inform my parents of the sites I will be visiting. 

*I will not set up any social media accounts. 

*I will not interface or play online games with anyone without permission.

*I will not Skype, video chat, FaceTime without permission from my parents.

*I will not load photos or videos onto the internet (Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or any other site).

*I will not text or email videos or photos to anyone.

*My parents will have my passwords at all times.

And that is it.  What do you think? I will let you know how it goes...  

Thanks for stopping by!

*Post-script to the post:  I realized a little clarification may be needed… I don't want to sound sanctimonious about not letting our kids use technology much.  We do use let them watch a fair amount (I think) of TV (restricted though) and I have no qualms about pulling out the iPad and letting Anna watch Lion King so that I can take a shower!

**Post-post script to the post: A few of you have already asked about various ways of blocking. I will put together a list for you and post that as soon as I can!

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