Kids and Technology- What’s a “Healthy Relationship”?

Product-Tour-iMageI’ve addressed the issue for parental over-involvement several times on this blog. Parents want to ensure good decisions are made regarding their children.  There are plenty of legitimate evils in the world that lead to overprotective urges.  The rise of social media and online forums make it possible for bad people to hide behind seemingly innocent online personas.  In a world like this, the urge to keep children offline makes sense.  But shielding children in this way can have an adverse affect on them later in life.  Exposure to online environments at an early age, with proper parental oversight, can lead to more responsible technology use in the future.  While safety is the biggest issue for most parents, proper online etiquette is also a rising concern. Based on my personal experience and what I have gleaned from loved ones, here are some tips to build up independence, and a healthy relationship with technology.

Foster responsible electronics use:

Set screen time boundaries that are appropriate for your family. Lead by example.  If a child can not have their device out at the dinner table, perhaps Mom and Dad shouldn’t either. Some families set rule for “unplugged” hours, such as no screens after 8pm.  Others seek to unplug for entire weekends.  This may not be feasible for everybody, however a lot of good can come from screen-free family time.

Help children set up a personal email account:

In my opinion, with proper precautions, this can happen as early as a child asks for it  Some parents even set up accounts as soon as their babies are home from the hospital (got to make sure the first choice user name is locked down!). At the very least, initial set-up should be done with parental oversight.  Instead of using a child’s full name in their profile, protect their privacy with a nickname.  This can help ensure their online safety. Parents should know the account password and be very clear that their access is unlimited.  Over time, children can be given opportunities to earn more freedom with their online accounts

Encourage independent communication as they grow: 

By the end of middle school, students should be comfortable emailing trusted adults in their lives; specifically their teachers. If there is a question about missing classwork, upcoming due dates or any general school-related inquiry, students should not depend on a parent to do the asking.  They must learn to develop their own electronic communication skills and an email dialogue with a teacher is the perfect place to start. As a high school teacher, I try to respond to all of my emails in a timely manner. However, without a doubt, students who email me themselves will receive quickest and most detailed responses.  I have daily interactions with these children and want to make sure they are aware of the respect I have for them and their concerns.  There are some serious issues for which it completely makes sense to have a parent take the lead on communication.  I absolutely respect that.   However, in a world where most teenagers know how to use social media forums that I haven’t even heard of, expecting them to know how to send a routine email doesn’t feel like overreaching.