Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The 9 Rules of Electronics For Our Children

When we recently purchased new, and unexpected, electronics (I wrote about the struggle and decision here) I knew they had to come with rules. I still want my children to have normal childhood experiences (ie - something out of the eighties where children ran around with friends until dinnertime, without a cell phone attached to them), but there's also a need in our life for these new electronics. Before purchasing the devices, I knew what I wanted right away: NOT another device that could be used to "play games." Hubs and I spent a week doing thorough research on Chromebooks and cell phones (and cell phone plans) before we purchased a Samsung Chromebook and a Samsung S10e.

Both of these devices have been everything we wanted and more (highly recommend both for middle schoolers or high schoolers if you're in the market)! Most of the oldest's school work is done online so we didn't have to worry about storage capacity, but we did go with a higher GB for school work that needs saved. It's lightweight and easy to carry around (when needed). I actually started taking this to meetings with me because it's way less bulky than my laptop. Now the phone. We had no plans of getting the oldest a brand new phone, but Verizon had a buy one, get one deal for S10's. This and the fact that the battery in my S7 wasn't as good as we'd like, we decided to go with a new phone and keep the S7 on hand in case something happens to one of the other new phones (Hubs also recently got a new Google Pixel phone and loves it, but I'm a Samsung fan). The Verizon Kids Plan made the new phone decision easier on us as well. We're able to set restrictions on the phone (from one of our phones) and can track the phone as well.

Now for our rules. All of the electronics in our house comes with rules. These make me feel comfortable in my decision to allow these devices for our children, plus they give the minis much needed limits. Most of these are just for the oldest mini, but of course, when the younger two see big brother enjoying these things, they want to use them too. I'd like to say I'm not overly strict when it comes to devices/screen time, but I know I'm much more strict than some parents and way less strict than others. No matter which category you fall in, or are struggling to find a happy medium, these rules seem to be working for us and the minis.

  1. You must ask to turn on the TV and tell a parent what you'd like to watch. Often times if we have the TV on in the evenings, we have the local news on. I don't have set time limits on TV, but if I see one of my children watching TV for hours on end, it goes off for days on end. No TV past 7 p.m. for the minis on school nights because there's chores and reading before bedtime. So you know how strict I am on the "no TV after 7 p.m." it's currently 7:07 p.m. and the oldest and I just turned on Netflix while the younger two are at dance. We'll flip it off when we see them pull into driveway. What no one else knows won't hurt anyone.
  2. School work only is done on the computer. The first night the oldest used the Chromebook, he asked if he could look up trivia questions and answers on Google. I allowed that since he asked first.
  3. We utilize the night and school modes with the cell phone. This means the phone is essentially in a sleep mode from 8:30 a.m. - 3:15 p.m. and then 8 p.m. - 6 a.m. each day. I LOVE this feature because this ensures he won't use it during school (that is against school rules anyways) and it keeps the nighttime quiet. If someone calls the phone during those hours, the call won't go through and instead informs the caller that there's restrictions on the phone.
  4. Because of the restrictions on the phone and the fact that cell phone use is forbidden during school hours, one of our rules is the oldest mini must take a moment at the end of the school day to check any text messages that may have come through when the phone went off of restrictions. This is important because who takes and picks up in our carpool changes and can (and has) change in the middle of the day.
  5. The biggest rule is that the new cell phone isn't just the oldest's cell phone to take to school, it's the family/house phone. Since we don't have a landline, this new cell phone has been on our minds for a while. As the minis get older and we leave them home alone on occasion, we wanted them to have a phone to use in those instances.
  6. Because of the phone essentially being a "home phone," this means the phone stays at home whenever the oldest isn't at school. It doesn't follow us on our adventures, it doesn't go to the elementary school with the youngest two, and won't be used much outside of middle school, extracurricular activities, and when they're home by themselves.
  7. There will be no social media accounts and no "checking out" any social media. Not yet. I can't deal with this yet. One thing at a time.
  8. They must ask permission to take pictures with the phone. This is mostly to teach them the importance of asking for other's permission before taking someone's picture and posting it on social media. However, I also stress this importance because of my job (working with kids). Some parents don't want their child's picture taken, much less on a child's cell phone because who knows what could happen with it. I like to think (hope) I'm teaching them about respect in this area by enforcing this rule.
  9. The phone and Chromebook come with time restrictions. Unless it's needed, the Chromebook is mostly just used on Wednesday evenings for two hours. This is when the youngest two minis have dance and it's Max and I at home. I use these two hours for writing and Max does all of his math lessons, Spanish vocab, and anything else that needs done for the week. The night and rest modes on the phone helps us with the restrictions, but we quickly realized we needed to control the texting. While the phone can only hold up to 20 numbers (and currently none of their friend's numbers are in the phone), they really enjoy texting grandparents emoji messages. Nothing important, just all emojis. So within two days of getting the new phone, a new rule is they must ask before texting anyone.

I'm sure this list will grow and change as time moves on. I'm sure there's things we're forgetting to be worried about, but for now, these rules are working for us, help keep me sane, and make the new devices pleasurable for all of our family.