Computers, devices, smartphones and consoles are amazing and I am very grateful for them, but I am even more passionate about my children learning from authentic human interaction, communication & touch that can never be replicated in technology.
We are not trying to build a control based, fear & rule keeping family, but instead a culture setting, faith filled, standard keeping family.We have found the place we are comfortable for devices to have in our family and set some Guidelines For Use:
- Add super strict filters at source and you can delete any apps that give unlimited access to the internet (this is easier than you think – Google it). You don’t want your kids to wander into adult content, but in reality it’s all too easy. There are a few apps great for extra parental controls – I use OurPact (app) – it is basic but good.
A really good tip for games & TV/Film user reviews is Imdb ( Some helpful people have spent a long time listing every element of a film or game and if its suitable for children)
2. Time limits are super important – it’s so easy to lose hours and hours (Pinterest hello!!) But there is a balance; children need time to get good at something. 20 mins of Fifa will cause frustration so we set a ‘number of games’ limit instead; likewise 20 mins on a level game doesn’t even give you chance to complete anything and who knows, no ‘Minecraft Kingdom’ was built in a day.
3. The calendar is the BOSS. We got ourselves an old school kitchen planner. Include the children on choosing console days & then all you have to do is get the kids to check what the calendar says, & an extra tip -we had a little wind up kitchen timer to manage the allotted time (works for 4-9yrs). Somehow my kids could not argue with the calendar like they could with me. (I hate being the bad guy so this was a life saver at times).
4. I no longer buy gems, coins or troops. I will not be responsible for a clan, fish, field or zoo. If you download an app with a pet you can feed it and breed it. Feeding real humans and a couple of pets takes up enough time for me.
5. Play together – our kids don’t care if we are good they just love having us join in & double win too as this way you get to know what they are playing & what is filling their impressionable minds. Show them your skills!! (My boys loved it when I would occasionally score a freak goal).
6. Teach them what else they can do with devices, the internet & consoles in everyday life – make short movies, stop motion films with toys, use for homework, discover the variety of uses for tablets, computers & consoles. Let them take photos, record videos & make a home movie. The possibilities are endless.
7. Always remember, YOU get to decide when and where, what & how long. How awesome of you as a parent that you have given them access to this incredible tool. Make yourself look awesome, set challenges – 30min additional non diarised time on the TV, console or device was earned after an apple, a drink of water and the equivalent time outside.
8. We have always known logins, passwords, what they are on & for how long – always. We regularly check internet history and any games with chat or DMs. This is not to check up on them but checking in with them, and a brilliant way to train our children in knowing how to respond to the many varieties and approaches to life they will encounter. We have always coached them on age relevant, appropriate, content, just as I was coached in how to cross the road safely, I feel responsible to coach my children in how to enter the internet safely.
9. Devices & consoles are for recreation & so they come once it’s time to rest. I have myself many times used them as a distraction & to give me some P&Q and although I am not against this in moderation, be warned , a child who hasn’t used their day allotted amount of energy is not the best company and at some point your extra 5 mins of peace earlier in the day makes for a very long evening.
10. We set a bedtime for the usage & then always keep the controllers and/or devices overnight, we learnt the hard way when one of ours was a 4.30am riser and suddenly got really good on Fifa – not surprising when we found out it was because he was doing a 3 hr stint before school!!
Go with your instincts you know your family best, give yourself time to work it out. It is absolutely okay to ask ‘am I being over/or under cautious?’
Tomorrow is a new day, and if today you don’t quite get it right; believe it or not they won’t remember in years to come. (Especially the time you hid the controllers down your bra or hid the console in the washing machine overnight; well my kids don’t anyway)
Hope you and your family are well and helped by this.