We’ve decided to not ban all access to technology (at least for now). At times, it’s overwhelming. Parenting in the digital age is hard. But, I’ve got some good news. For starters, there is so much technology to help us manage the technology. Ironic, isn’t it? And, there’s also some practical advice.
The 80/20 Rule
If you’ve ever been on a diet, then you’ve probably heard about the 80/20 rule: Eat healthy foods 80% of the time and indulge 20%. It’s doable, and more importantly, it’s easy to remember. Sometimes that’s the hardest part. Not so long ago, I did not remember to put gas in my car before entering the highway only to realize it when my car broke down (true story).
Weekdays are easier because most kids have little free time. After homework, extracurricular activities and arguing about chores instead of doing them, they probably have an hour. Leave it up to them, and they’ll surf the internet, play video games or watch YouTube the entire time. But, you have the 80/20 rule. So, they get 15 minutes of screen time (round up, of course) and 45 minutes of something else. Sure, it won’t be so easy at first. Initial reactions will include whining and complaining. Here’s the thing though- once you remind them the timer has been set, I bet you they’ll get over it fast.
Weekends are harder.
They can be long and exhausting. After the Saturday morning chores, the mid-afternoon birthday party and the boozy dinner we want to relax. We want to binge-watch Netflix and ignore our significant other. What’s the harm, right? The kids are fine. Let them play video games all night. And, yet… somehow that just doesn’t feel right. So, bust out the 80/20 rule. My teenage daughter goes to bed late on the weekend- after midnight. If we’re home by 8 pm, her screen time is 50 minutes. Then, she must do something else. Read a book, soak in a bath, practice her make-up skills, bake, or make slime (or sulk in bed staring at the ceiling). Does she whine and complain? Yes. Eventually, she deals. Try this at home and let me know if it works for you. My success rate is about 80%.
All is well at the wired household in this digital age, am I right? After all, we figured out how much time our kids should spend on the screen. We’re good. But, wait. What are they doing during this time? Is it safe? Is it appropriate? Will it rot their brains? All good questions. As the new adage goes, not all screen time is created equally.
Technology Is Our Friend
Repeat after me: technology is our friend. There are so many helpful tools that can help us manage screen time. The best part is that we can choose the one that best meets our family’s needs.
Apps for mobile devices
Most of the apps available provide a great deal of control over mobile devices. We can:
- Disable access to all phone services at specific times
- Manage contact lists and monitor text messaging
- Block internet sites and apps that are not appropriate
- Locate and get alerts of arrivals and departures
- Supervise the videos they watch
Our Pact (Android)
Familytime (Android and IOS)
Qustodio (Android, IOS, Kindle, Nook)
Software for multiple devices, including PCs
Older kids probably have a laptop or a desktop. Here are some awesome software solutions that allow parents to set internet filters, monitor and track the sites they visit, and control screen time across all devices. Some even allow social media filters, geofencing, alert systems. Cool right?
Mobicip (MacOS & Windows) I love this one because it allows you to monitor videos.
Qustodio (MacOS & Windows)
Whole Network Solutions
These solutions are the most comprehensive because they work on all devices that are connected to your Wi-Fi, and most filter at the router level. They can be expensive and are also more difficult to customize.
All Apple users now have access to Screen Time, a nifty tool that allows you to see how much time you’ve spent on your phone and on what. It allows you to schedule downtime, limit apps, filter sites and set some restrictions. It’s easy to use because you can do it from your phone with Family Sharing, so if you’re really crunched for time you don’t even have to download an app.
We’ve Got This!
With technology on our side, parenting in the digital age gets a little bit easier. Let’s own it! By putting the work in and taking the time to set up our family’s boundaries and sticking to them, we can empower kids to enjoy the wonders of technology. So, here’s to all of us connected parents! We’ve got this.