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Beacon Senior News

Navigating technology use with (grand)kids

Dec 02, 2019 03:55PM ● By Adam Cochran

My wife and I had our first baby in 1997. That same year, we bought our first computer.

Perhaps I should feel guilty about this, but one could probably make the case that viewing the internet through Netscape Navigator over a 28.8 dial-up connection had as much impact on the next 25 years of my life as having that first baby.

In the early 2000s, it became obvious to me that our kids were going to be surrounded by technology in every facet of their lives. By the time we had two toddlers and a newborn, I was on my third desktop computer, my second laptop, and I had a Kyocera 6035—a Palm Pilot/cell phone.

While contemplating the virtues and vices of incorporating technology into family life, I reflected on a friendship I had in elementary school.

I was always into Star Wars, superheroes and TV. My family struggled financially, but I had a mediocre collection of action figures and spaceships that I had gathered from yard sales and clearance shelves. My friend Sean on the other hand, had a vast collection of Star Wars toys. His Darth Vader carrying case was full and he had shelves and drawers full of vehicles.

Unfortunately, Sean never wanted to play with them when I went to his house. He enjoyed Star Wars as much as I did, but the toys weren’t a novelty for him. He was more interested in playing football or running around the neighborhood.

That memory was the basis for how I would incorporate technology into our family. My wife and I decided that we would teach our kids about the good and bad uses of technology, but we wouldn’t treat technology as a luxury. The computer was always accessible, as were the video game systems. As tablets and phones began to be more ubiquitous, our kids were often the first in their age group to carry around one of the devices my wife or I retired.

In addition to the one hour per day maximum for video games, we had a few more rules designed to keep our kids safe while giving them lightly regulated access to technology.

Here is the list of rules we had for technology in our family:

1. No computers or devices in bedrooms.

2. Any device in use must be facing an open door where Mom and Dad can look over your shoulder.

3. Passwords cannot be kept a secret from Mom and Dad.

4. Computers and devices may be subject to a complete audit if we suspect rules have been broken.

5. Of course, we had many discussions about the appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.

We didn’t have a rule that homework or chores had to be done before they could use technology because doing chores and homework were required. Avoiding chores with video games wasn’t any worse than avoiding chores by taking two hours to eat the marshmallows out of their Lucky Charms.

While we’ve had a few occasions where we had to do a device audit, we never had any of our kids throw tantrums over the use of technology or playing video games. When my kids had friends over, it made me very happy when they would tell their friends that they would rather play outside than sit in front of a screen.