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Kids & Screens: Yes, No, Maybe

When Nathan from The New Oil approached me about doing an interview for his blog last summer, he explained that thinking about spyware was what made him decide to reach out to a parent for advice.

In preparation for the interview, I decided to jot down some notes on how I feel about specific applications, platforms and rules from a parental perspective. Not all of this was covered, so I thought I would post those notes here in three categories: Yes, No and Maybe.

I hope it is useful to other parents or future parents to see an outline of another household's screen rules. I particularly welcome additional additions and challenges to this list, which I can update if they come do in.

So, without further ado, here are my opinions on the technological and digital tools parents will most likely be confronted with as their children grow up and go through various domestic, educational and social experiences.

Yes, No, Maybe

Note: still learning markdown; this post will test my table-creation skills for sure!

Yes No Maybe
screens in living room screens in bedrooms screens in the morning
rules for screen time very limited screen time automated time limits
refurbished hardware expensive brand hardware school Chromebooks
alternative operating systems cracked OSes mainstream OSes
parent as administrator constant oversight child as co-administrator
screen facing living area secret online lives screens facing wall
chat with friends chat with strangers anonymous online chat
parental controls (young kids) location tracking reports on screen use
FOSS software recurring software subs proprietary software
Signal family group large toxic chat groups WhatsApp friend/study groups
feature phones smartphone in elementary smartphone in middle school
physical media illegal downloads subscription media
co-managed social media account non-negotiated social media account creation school tasks requiring social media account
age-appropriate gaming simplistic narratives about gaming above age limit gaming
in-browser school platforms monetised school platforms school platform apps
agreements to call/keep phone on hardware trackers/tags independent travel
YouTube tutorials & nonsense YouTube account young age YouTube channel
Privacy-focused software Google everything Big Tech for specific activities
teach changing browser settings default settings own choice after understanding alternatives

Parenting is not easy

I'll be the first to admit we break these rules sometimes, but I find it does help to at least have a clear sense of direction. As discussed in previous posts, we are uncompromising about screens in the bedrooms, a simple rule which can help avoid a lot of problems as children grow into adults.

Social media and messengers are tricky. You don't want your child to be ostracised, but at the same time, they shouldn't lead completely secret lives online. Bullying or predation is always a concern too, at any age. The best I can offer here is that if you can teach your children to always check new account creation with you first, then you will be in a better position. I like co-administration of accounts, though from about 15 or 16 you do have to let go, so that your children can learn to manage their own online lives responsibly.

Lastly, I recommend avoiding over-bearing or secretive snooping, but don't shy away from sticking to rules and being open to discussion about anything. Check once in a while by asking: what are you watching? It might be fun to enjoy a speed run, an impossible-to-execute baking hack, or an impressive Minecraft world together.

Reader input

I'd love to hear from readers who are parenting right now. I'd also love to hear from young adults about the rules they endured or are enduring at home. What works, and what doesn't? Please feel free to connect via email or this post's discussion on Reddit.

As is usually the case, we were too strict with our oldest child, and their input as an adult has been invaluable in helping me readjust my own ideas about parenting screens and online behaviour. I wrote about that here.


All parenting posts

Interview with The New Oil

Matt Cone's Markdown Guide

Markdown Table Generator - thanks, Matt Cone!

-----Discuss on Reddit-----

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