Creating a healthy relationship in your home for tweens and technology
For many parents, it can be hard to set solid ground rules for your tweens’ use of technology. Technology such as video games, tablets, and cell phones have quickly become the go-to source of entertainment for tweens everywhere.
However, tech is also one of the main avenues that tweens use for education and communication with their friends and peers. As such, balancing how much time they spend on technology can be a challenge.
Further, as a parent your rules have to be simple and easy to follow, but most importantly you have to be consistent in enforcement. Some parents like to explicitly write out or state rules, while others just encourage kids to spend time off the screens.
There are many ways to prevent your tween from being glued to their tech and the negative effects it can have. However, it is also important to recognize the positive effects it has as well.
To help you through this challenging stage of tween parenting, we’ve got a simple but comprehensive guide to setting ground rules for your tweens use of technology.
Talk It Out
If you are reading this because you feel that your tween already uses tech too much, try just talking to them first. Bring up that you feel that they are too distracted or involved in online entertainment and that you would prefer they balance their use of tech with the rest of their life.
Sometimes an issue only needs to be brought to your tweens attention for it to be fixed, so try to have a conversation and allow them to fix their habits. Of course, the rest of this guide can be used as suggestions to give your tween as well.
However, if your tween is not willing to limit use of technology by themselves, then now would be a good time to move onto the rest of this guide.
Technology As A Privilege Versus Technology As A Right
One concept that is important to establish early on is the idea that technology is a privilege, not a right. This is especially so if you are the one who paid or is paying for your tweens tech, which most parents typically do.
The use of technology is not something that tweens have an inherent right to, and conveying that to your child is important. Many tweens will have friends or know kids that have near unlimited access to their technology, which is up to their parents.
However, that does not mean that your child abides by other families’ rules. Teach your child early on that they get to use technology, not that they have to.
Negative Aspects Of Tech
Despite all it does for us, it would be foolish to argue that there are not any negative aspects of technology use. Typically, using technology in and of itself isn’t really associated with any major negative repercussions.
Rather, it is what your tweens are doing on their tech that could present an issue. Social media, which is incredibly popular and one of the main reasons tweens want cell phones and tablets, can be a great way to connect with friends.
On the other hand, many social media sites do not restrict what people are allowed to post, while others still allow for some potentially harmful imagery.
Social media can be harmful for developing tweens as it can present them with different ideals of what they should look and act like. This of course can lead to lower self-esteem, which is something you and your tween can and should avoid.
Social media presents a gallery of competing voices and opinions that can be a lot for a developing tween. Of course, this does not mean that all aspects of social media are inherently negative, only that at times it does present a risk.
Further, access to the internet means access to harmful or sensitive content such as depictions of violence, which can include filmed real-world violence, adult entertainment, malware and scammers.
Thankfully, a lot of this can be avoided even if your tween uses the internet a lot. There are a plethora of parental blockers that you can install to manage what content your tween has access to.
Standing Up To Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a major topic of contention among parents, schools, and youth organizations. Now more than ever, youth of all ages are exposed to all types of online slander, bullying, and harassment.
Of course, the smaller your online footprint is, the less likely you are to deal with cyberbullying. The key is helping your tween manage their online footprint.
- We recommend trying to keep as many of their accounts anonymous as you can.
- Try not to use full names where possible
- Teach your tween to limit pictures of themselves
- Teach your tween to never divulge personal information to people they do not know.
There is a difference between being an active participant and simply spectating when it comes to social media.
If your tween is only on social media to keep up with other people, and does not post themselves, the chances of anyone trying to cyberbully them is minimal. This is because often the targets of online harassment present themselves as targets by putting themselves in the spotlight or publicly reacting to harassment, which fuels more cyberbullying.
There is also a problem with cyberbullying in the world of online gaming. Many online games give players access to an open microphone to talk to their teammates or competition. Of course, this can lead to some nasty language and, if the situation is bad enough, targeted harassment.
Teach your tween to use microphone settings to mute people or have players muted by default. There is also the saving grace of the block button, as most of the time blocking an abusive account will be enough to stop the harassment.
Your Tweens Online Behavior
A large part of setting ground rules for your tweens use of technology is ensuring proper conduct online. Of course, you should consistently educate and reinforce online safety.
Teach your kids not to give out personal information and be wary of what they download and who they communicate with. As a parent, there are many ways to restrict others’ access to your child’s account depending on the application.
You should also teach your child to behave properly online, as it can be easy for kids to want to mimic what they say. Bullying, harassment, and any other harmful online behavior should be grounds for immediate restriction of your tweens access to their gadgets.
Creating An Appropriate And Healthy Use Of Tech
As we have established, much of a tweens interests will naturally fall into some kind of tech category. As such, it is important to not totally restrict tweens from technology, but rather, foster a healthy relationship with technology.
This means encouraging your kids to develop skills or participate in activities outside of technology. It should be noted that at times, use of technology is not particularly extensive, such as answering a quick message online.
In fact, while tweens may look like they are always on their phones or games, often they like to use their devices in short bursts. This is not so bad as it allows them to use technology as a break from other activities or work.
As a parent, you need to determine what constitutes extensive or full use of tech. Are your kids allowed to have their gadgets on their person to answer messages? How many hours of gaming or streaming is too much in a day or week?
Some parents let their children play games at any time of the day with a time limit. Other parents only allow screen time after school work and chores are done. Be clear with your child about your expectations and when they can use their screen time each day.
These are questions that only you can decide the answer to, and you should convey what you feel is too much to your child.
Think your tween is using their smartphone excessively? We cover tips for tackling tween phone addiction over here.
Creating A Tech Contract
An effective way to manage your tweens use of technology is to create a tech contract. Essentially, you will want to set some ground rules and written exceptions. Your tweens will have to abide by those rules or face some kind of penalty.
However, there has to be an upside to the contract so try to offer benefits, such as increased time on weekends or the ability to earn extra time.
We mentioned that you should include any exceptions to rules, that way you are totally transparent early on and don’t have to worry about maintaining the rules. Basically, you don’t want to accidentally set precedence that you will later want to revoke.
This can be a good way to enforce tech rules in your household as a tech contract should be complete and easy to understand. This makes following the rules easier and alleviates the anxiety of “What am I allowed to do and when?”.
Monitoring Your Tweens Tech Use
There are several ways to monitor your tweens’ use of technology. First and foremost, you should always have access to their social media accounts. This way if anything happens, you can step in and address or fix the issue.
Further, most devices have parent features that allow you to restrict access to certain content. There are also ways for you to get alerted as to what your tween is doing. For instance, app stores make it possible for your child to need your permission before downloading apps.
There are also devices that parents can use to set filters and encourage safe internet use for children. Some routers have parental controls that allow you to restrict devices by the time of day so you can turn off internet access at bedtime.
Of course, children will quickly learn to switch to cellular data on their phones to avoid this. Some devices, like Circle Home Plus, allow you to restrict websites and apps no matter which network your children are on.
The Safe Internet Filter allows you to see a full history of every website that your child visits, including if they try to visit a blocked site. This works on your home computers, and you can also pay extra to monitor their phones.
Each family will have their own expectations and rules for screen time and acceptable use. This is a great opportunity to have an open conversation with your tween and let them know your rules and expectations so everyone is on the same page.
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