Kids and Screens: One Simple Rule
It is hard to get around the problem of kids and their access to screens. Children need to use their devices for their school work and their entertainment. Sharing your own device with your child is not a convenient solution.
In our home, we use one simple rule for all screens used by our children: screens stay in the living areas. It helps that our WiFi signal does not reach the bedrooms in our home.
Each child has their own 'tech box' for storing their devices and tech paraphernalia (headphones, chargers, usb cables). We also have a shelf in the living room where phones are charged overnight, so we can see at a glance where the phones are.
The simple rule of keeping all screens out of children's bedrooms has been very effective; there is a clarity and consistency that comes with having one rule.
It can be a challenge to be consistent. Homework often requires Internet access, and a child may prefer to complete their work in the quieter space of their own room.
You will need to create a work space for your children in the living areas, which can lead to tech clutter at times. The individual storage boxes are helpful here, but sometimes our dining table does look like an IT help desk workspace!
Having said that, consistent application of the 'no screens in the bedroom' rule should always be the deciding factor, as otherwise you'll open a Pandora's box of day-to-day negotiations about specific case scenarios.
Over time, we did allow the following two compromises:
Music is really important, and I want my children to be able to listen to their favourite tracks in their rooms. We bought them each a small CD player - yes, we use CDs! - and allow the use of a dedicated mp3/podcast player. I made sure to do some research and pick one that does not have additional features or apps.
We want to encourage reading above all, and have allowed the use of an e reader in the kids' rooms. While this is technically a screen, you can use the parental controls feature to turn off options like Internet browsing, access to the store and access to book review platforms, and so the e reader really just becomes a digital book and nothing more.
Current use and looking ahead
When I explained to one of my children that I'm writing this blog and asked them what they think of the rule, they said that they like it, because "it means I won't stay up late checking my phone, or be tempted by notifications". They also reiterated that a downside is not being able to do homework in their rooms, but they said they can live with it.
In terms of concerns about online safety, it makes a massive difference knowing that your child's screens are not with them in their bedrooms at night. The rule also helps ensure healthy sleeping habits for your children.
Where possible, we ask our children to position their laptops so their screens face towards the living area, rather than away from it.
When kids become teenagers, the one simple rule will become harder to navigate; however, establishing 'no screens in the bedroom' as a baseline early on can help with those more difficult discussions as they grow towards becoming adults who will need to make their own decisions about responsible use of screens.
See previous post "Keeping Your Smartphone Out of the Bedroom" about high profile technology developers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs applying a similar rule when raising their children.
Also see my post about parental controls vs admin rights.
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