Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Part 2: Developing Responsible Technology Users

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Wesley Fryer: http://flickr.com/photos/wfryer/2959807121/
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of parents modeling responsible technology use in order to develop children who are responsible users themselves. Another important factor for raising responsible technology users is setting appropriate rules and boundaries in the home. This is a complex issue and there is no single best way to do things but there are some common practices I have observed over the years that seem to be particularly effective.

Most importantly, parents must first establish clear rules and boundaries guiding the use of technology in the home. In doing so, a variety of factors should be carefully considered such as family values, age, maturity, self-discipline and history with technology use. There may even be different rules for children within the same household based on the above-mentioned factors which is perfectly acceptable. Whatever the case may be, the household rules for technology use should be clearly communicated and consistently upheld.

Additionally, it is critical that parents explain the "why" behind the rules and boundaries that are being set. Children must understand why the household rules are important and how they align with your family values. If children do not understand why certain rules and boundaries are in place and how they are beneficial, it is unlikely those rules and boundaries will result in the development of lasting positive habits.

In talking with numerous parents over the past several years, one practice I have found to be particularly helpful for children is limiting screen time. In today's technology-rich world, it is easy for our children to be glued to one device or another 24/7 but this is not necessarily a healthy practice. It is important that children learn how to achieve balance in their daily life and the use of technology is no exception. The following are some practical examples, used by parents, for limiting screen time in a manner that is positive and beneficial:
  • Daily "unplug time" in which everyone, including the parents, have all devices put away and silenced  (family dinners are a great time to implement this)
  • Having children put away all devices in a specified location of the house at a certain time each night (helpful for parents to participate in this one)
  • Encouraging participation in a variety of extra-curricular activities
Check out this fantastic resource by Common Sense Media for more ideas on limiting screen time with your children. If your child is an iPad/iPhone user, click here to find out how to set-up screen time limits using the guided access feature. 

Along with setting appropriate household rules and boundaries guiding technology use, it is important for parents to consider utilizing services such as home web filters (OpenDNS is a great option) and parental control options offered through mobile service providers. In addition, parents should be aware of the parental restrictions available on most mobile devices. For help specifically with iPad/iPhones, check out this great resource...Setting up parental controls in iOS.

While it is good to provide our children with plenty of opportunities to grow in their use of technology, this process should not be without limits. Just like anything else, providing children with computers and mobile devices without any restrictions can result in many problems if they are not ready for this type of freedom and responsibility. 

On the other end of this spectrum, overly strict controls should also be avoided as it is important that children learn how to make good choices. One thing I regularly communicate to parents is that it is easy for kids to make good choices when there are no choices to be made. If we are to develop responsible users of technology, children must learn how to make good choices and exercise self-control. The only way this will happen is if they are provided with opportunities to exhibit these behaviors. 

In the next post, I will discuss the importance of digital literacy/citizenship and how parents can help their children develop valuable knowledge and skill in these areas. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Part 1: Developing Responsible Technology Users

In my current position at Prince of Peace Christian School,  I frequently receive questions from parents on what they can do to help their children learn how to use technology more responsibly. While I certainly do not have all the answers for this issue, the points I am going to discuss in this series are ones that I have found to be particularly important for teaching children how to be responsible and productive technology users. The information I intend to share has been developed through my experiences over the past thirteen years working with students and their parents as both a classroom teacher and instructional technology director/coach.

The first and most important area for all parents to consider in raising responsible technology users is the example they are demonstrating on a daily basis. Parents must continually ask the question: "What am I modeling for my children?" More simply, if you as a parent desire your children to be responsible users of technology, YOU must model the behaviors and habits you expect out of your children. More often than not, children will follow the lead of their parents and the use of technology is no exception. When parents approach me with concerns regarding poor, undesirable and/or inappropriate uses of technology among their children, the above-mentioned question is usually the first one I ask as it is the most important starting point for change. 

In attempting to raise responsible technology users, parents must also consider their general attitudes towards technology that are being conveyed to the children. A great example of this involves parents who are overly fearful or reluctant to use technology. When I encounter students who seem hesitant to embrace new technology and/or have limited technology skills for their age and maturity level, I typically find that they have parents who model these same behaviors and attitudes. 

Another common situation I encounter is parents who are overly permissive and oblivious regarding the ways in which their children utilize technology. In contrast to the first example, children in this situation tend to be relatively savvy with technology because their parents provide them with all the latest devices; however, they rarely have any idea how to utilize these tools responsibly since little to no guidance is being provided by the parents. Neither approach is effective but both are good examples of how children follow the lead of their parents. With all that being said, it is critical that parents carefully consider whether the example they are modeling, in terms of technology use, is positive or negative.

As we continue to discuss important issues involving the development of responsible technology users, I encourage you to check out and bookmark the dynamite resource below provided by Common Sense Media. This is one of the absolute best resources to help parents stay educated and prepared to handle the the most common technology issues affecting children. 

Common Sense Media Family Toolbox

In the next post, we will discuss some best practices for setting appropriate guidelines and boundaries that are helpful for developing children who are responsible technology users.