Parenting today’s elementary aged child means understanding the world of technology… and guess what? Many parents don’t get it. Some Christian parents, horrified by the potential dangers of technology, simply avoid technology all together covering their child ears to the multisensory language of the 21st century. Other parents, sure that their kids would never get hurt, provide unlimited access to the latest technologies from a very early age. An overwhelming majority of parents, when truthful, admit they just don’t know the right way to lead their children in the area of technology. Parents often cave under the pressure of relentless childlike begging instead of working a well thought out plan for their child and technology.
There are three big tech issues that parents should think through as they intentionally lead their children in this areana.
1. When should my child have a cell phone?
My rule of thumb for parents is “when you as a parent need them to have one.” Today, every kid is asking for a cell phone by the time they are in third grade, if they wait that long. Just because they ask, does not mean they should have one. A mobile device carries with it a level of responsibility. Kids with a phone can communicate with anyone they want to however they want to for as long as they want to, depending on the mobile plan. Young kids are not ready for this responsibility nor should we put them in a position to manage that kind of freedom.
Instead, an older, responsible child should have a cell phone only when the parent needs them to have one. The word “need” is an important assessment. Does the child need to have one for their personal security, a difficult family scheduling situation, or to communicate with a parent regularly?
2. When can my child start using social media?
This is an easy one that even the people at Facebook get. Facebook has a policy that states a child should be a least 13 to register. They recommend that minors over the age of 13 be closely monitored by, get this, parents, as they utilize social media. Elementary aged children are simply not mature enough to make good decisions with social media and are not smart enough to avoid the associated junk.
3. My child absorbs himself in technology. What are some healthy boundaries?
Two key boundaries really rise to the top of the list here: Time limits and location of use. Parents have the responsibility to limit the amount of time their child spends with technology for entertainment each day. Set automatic time limits on their computer account. Set time limits for games or TV. The idea is to allow some tech for fun but not so much that it overshadows the important things of life. The other really good move is to create a location boundary. All technology stays in the family room unless mom or dad makes a really special exception. That means their computer usage, ipods, itouch, DS , DSI, yada yada, are easily monitored in a very open space in the house. Technology in the bedroom eventually means too much time and the potential for techno trouble.