Karina Chronicles

How To Tame Your Child’s Technology

Helen Austin is a wife, mother, and award-winning singer/songwriter.  Her 2012 children’s album Always Be A Unicorn was nominated for a Juno Canadian music award.  You can follow her shenanigans on Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter

A while back there was a news item going around Facebook about a mother who gave her son an iphone for christmas but it came with a contact from her with a whole bunch of conditions. Here are a few…

1. It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you.  Aren’t I the greatest?
2.  I will always know the password.
3.  If it rings, answer it.  It is a phone.  Say hello, use your manners.  Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”.  Not ever.

…and you can read the rest here

When my 15-year-old daughter saw this she was confused and asked me why this was news.

When we gave her an iphone the conditions were pretty much the same – not written out, but the expectations were pretty much identical.

When our daughter turned 13 and started taking the bus we bought her crappy phone and when she lost it and we went to replace it with the same crappy one the sales person looked at me like I was an awful mother. How could I possibly not get her the one with a pull out keyboard for easy texting? The horror!

And when the texting function on her phone broke (she could send but not receive) we didn’t get it fixed. This one thing alone probably saved us hours of arguments and I think it should be a parental feature. It saved her from becoming an addictive texter.

A year or so later she started to show more maturity regarding phones and social media.  So when when we did give her an iphone she got the bottom of the food chain iphone.

But we made it clear that the phone belonged to us, we had the passwords, we could check texts if we felt concerned and the phone stayed downstairs after bedtime. It had always been the same deal with Facebook. And she has to ask to use computers. Also, she has no data plan and only has access to the internet through the house computer in full view of everyone and for a few hours at weekend via wifi on her phone. It’s handy having a computer savvy guy for a husband :)

Sure, she has broken these rules and has lost her phone/computer privileges for a day or two as a result but she seems happy with these rules, we are confident that she has learned how to be responsible with the internet and all that it entails and best of all, she seems to still really like us!

How did we manage to implement these rules without a full scale house war?

First, we started early. At 10 I didn’t like the amount of TV they were watching so I removed cable and they could watch DVDs at the weekends (which stopped the younger child from asking for endless toys after watching ads). Then at 12 we limited the amount of screen time to 30 mins a day and an hour at weekends and screen time was TV/computers or any device with a screen.

When the computer became a necessity for homework the 30 mins became 30 mins of mindless screen time (I enjoy Facebook as much as the next person!) and  anything creative or work based was decided on a case by case basis.

So when a phone was introduced all these rules were already in place which made our lives so much easier. But you have to be resolute because you are fighting against a world of permissive parenting. It is SO important to make sure there is an ongoing dialogue and our line is always “I don’t care what other kids are doing, they are not our child – you are”.

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