Let’s talk technology.  Technology can be a great thing!  I love the fact that I don’t have to spend endless amounts of hours at the library, using the microfiche machine to find what I’m looking for.  We have an infinite supply of information (it seems like it) and many ways to cross reference the accuracy (microfiche may still be needed).
We have a variety of ways to stay connected with people from all different walks in our life.  We can keep up to date with friends and family that are far away more quickly than previous decades.  There are loads of great things about the advancements that we currently have.
I love the fact that I can write and share my experiences with others in all parts of the world.  It has been helpful to connect with people who are going through similar things and nice to meet with other like minded individuals.  If I was raising a family in the 80’s or 90’s, some of these connections may have not been made.  The support I receive may have been on a much smaller level.
In regards to homeschooling, it’s been great for me and our family.  The internet has loads of games, resources and people that share their creative ideas.  I can even find answers to math questions that I’m struggling to teach.  The children have been able to stay connected with peers in their classes and with their teacher.
I can go on about the benefits that we have because of the technological advances.  Like everything though, there is a flip side to this. The “Other side” of technology.  The side that I’d prefer to ignore, but am forced to face.  A new age and a new type of risk and threat to our children, and ourselves.
In our home, we spend a lot of time discussing all things electronic, whether it be the TV, game system, cell phone, tablet, computer or internet.  Technology has been one of the harder issues to parent and a continual learning curve.  Advice from previous generations on how to parent in this time is not available, as my parents have never parented with social media being at the forefront.
We try (note the word *try*) to limit the electronics to an hour a day, outside of schoolwork.  It doesn’t matter if they want to sit and watch a show, play on the iPad or a game on one of the gaming systems an hour is what they have.  Yes, they do get to use their devices when we are waiting for a doctor or another type of appointment and, dependent on the weather, on these days they may get a bit more.  For the most part, we aim to stick to that hour.  There is a whole world that exists beyond the screen and my husband and I feel it’s important for or children to experience that.
One of the hardest struggles that we have is the whole movement with social media, the “likes” and acceptance within these systems.  We have a teenager and a soon to be teenager in our home and these platforms for communication can become “EVERYTHING” to them.  How often do you go by a group of teenagers and all of their faces are down looking at that little screen, while their fingers are going a mile a minute?
Unfortunately, there are risks in the cyber world.  The screen seems to create a false sense of security.  As parents, we are always trying to find the best way to protect our children that allows them independence, but still safeguards them from the things they don’t understand and the things they shouldn’t see.  We have used a variety of parental controls on phones, iPads, computers etc..  Even though there is a lot of great programs out there, we still have to be an active part of what they are doing.  We still have to keep conversation and education going on a continual basis.  I, myself, have to keep educated and relevant with the ever changing technology world.  Let me tell you, I am “tech savvy”, but the offspring always tend to be one or two steps ahead.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, privacy was a given. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for our children.  Privacy is something they are going to have to work at.
That screen creates a barrier and gives them a sense of safety and that safe feeling can cause such havoc for our kids.  Our children can be so trusting.  Teenagers tend to act impulsively, at least the ones in our house do, and don’t always have the best judgement.  If they have put something out there in the world and want to take it back it’s almost impossible, it’s never really gone.  Well, they are from our screen, but not from others.  An impulsive or bad decision can stick with them for a long time.  Once they turn off that phone or flip the computer screen down, they tend to think it ends there, but in reality it doesn’t.
No matter how much we educate, safe guard and keep communication open, they are kids.  Kids are going to explore, test boundaries and quite frankly have moments of doing the exact opposite of what we say.  That’s what kids do.  Teenagers and their ever changing brain…..I truly think they believe that they are invincible.  The “This would never happen to me” mentality I find is quite prevalent through this stage of life.
Cute sisters pouting while taking photos with smart phone at home
I know for myself when I was young, I did my own thing.  I tried stuff out and I knew that if my parents found out they would have had a fit.  I grew up in a time that once something was done and we moved on, we really could move on.  Most of us didn’t have a camera that we constantly carried around and there was no ongoing visual diary of mine or my friends’ lives.  I am thankful for this, really thankful!
Here are some strategies that we have used in regards to technology and our children: (please note that we have had challenges and hard lessons in regards to proper usage of social media and the internet and we have learned how to work through them).

  • the computer is in a common space where we can see it
  • we limit the amount of time that each child spends looking at a screen
  • we have ALL of their user names and passwords
  • we use parental controls
  • all electronic devices have a place to be in the evening
  • phones, iPads etc are not behind closed doors and never in the washroom
  • we frequent their contacts and question if we don’t know who someone is
  • their contacts must have real names, not just emojis or symbols
  • we continually talk and keep the dialogue open
  • we try to model good use of technology
  • we become their gauge if need be
  • ensure that they have all of their location settings turned off
  • we educate about their digital foot print – it’s important that they know what kind of trail they are leaving behind
  • yes, I will spot check and read their texts.  We are open about this and have a contract between us and them, if they have a phone.

I think that the technology aspect to life has many benefits and has made areas in our lives simpler and yet more complicated.  Our generation definitely face new challenges in regards to parenting.
Here are some links that I have found helpful for me and our children:
Protect Kids Online
Get Cyber Safe
Canada’s National Tipline
Media Smarts
I always welcome comments.  Please share your experiences or strategies on how you navigate through the world of technology in your home.  I love to learn and hear what others are doing.