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This week, at our local public middle school, we hosted a Principal’s Coffee chat where technology was the topic. In small groups, we brainstormed about the upsides to technology and the things we wonder (and worry) about…the questions that are swirling in our brains.

Some things we wonder (and worry about) are…

BOUNDARIES / LIMIT SETTING

time, stopwatch, clock

Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Is it possible that our kids might actually want us to be setting some boundaries for them since they won’t/can’t do it for themselves?
When (and where) will our kids have tech free times and zones? At home? At school?
Are we in a transition time and it’s important for us to start putting in place some boundaries and guidelines for how we will all interact with our devices so as to not become all-tech all the time? We observe that even when we say “no more devices” there is always a pull to check this ‘one thing’ on the computer, watch a show together, respond to a text, answer a FaceTime call, check the weather, etc. It seems that despite best efforts, the technology is ever-present and hard to manage.
As we learn more, we might need to adjust the family rules or set new ones. Is it okay to do this as things evolve?
Perhaps we can’t change everyone everywhere, but what can we do as a community? Could we create an agreement that parents would sign to agree to some core healthy guidelines as it relates to technology usage (for example, kids won’t use phones on short car rides)?
Could we work with the new Community Center to set some tech-free times with non-tech activities set at those times?
How much time are our kids spending online? What is too much?
How much computer use is going on in the schools?
How do we, as a community, monitor what is going on with our kids and their friends online (for example, the Hall Dating site on Instagram)?
How do we move any devices and technology out of our kids’ rooms and into communal spaces? Especially at night.
What are the limits we might want to set around texting? (Is it no different then the long phone corded phones we had and talked on for hours when we were kids?)

INTERPERSONAL IMPACTS

Woman in white long sleeve shirt sitting on yellow couch

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

How is this impacting their ability to communicate when they are texting and posting on social media without being able to see the person’s facial expression and hear their tone?
What are we leaving behind by moving towards technology in such a consuming way?
Are we losing face to face time?
Are we defaulting to online platforms instead of true relationships?
How is our concentration impacted with all of the frequent interruptions and notifications?

APPROPRIATENESS

What about pornography? How do we limit the access to these sites?
How do we supervise and monitor the quantity and quality of media messages?
Why are PG-13 movies feeling like they have too mature material? And why does it seem that most of the 12 year old boys’ parents are letting them watch R rated movies?
How do we handle the pressure that our kids put on us to do things online at such a young age?
How do we reconcile our kids’ relaxed view on privacy and “sharing all” on social media with our generations’ higher sensitivities around privacy and public sharing?
What about the feeing that sexting is “no big deal”?

AWARENESS/EDUCATION/SAFETY

Happy family sitting and looking at a laptop

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels

Should we join our kids on social media?
How do we educate ourselves (and our kids) on social media?
Does technology cause more stress? Physical or emotional? Pressure to be on so you don’t miss out, cyberbullying, social dynamics – no stop access.
How much privacy do we allow them? Do we check their texts and online communications?
Does media literacy get taught at school? What is happening at the schools with respect to kids’ usage of devices during free times (passing, lunch, recess) in the middle school?
How do we handle inconsistent standards by different families? Do feel right asking other kids to follow our house rules for technology?
How do we guide our kids towards moderation?
What are the negative impacts of SnapChat on our kids?
Are there downsides to using online textbooks?
What is the impact of social media and instant news/updates on social development?
Should we be concerned about the change in writing style – more informal and less careful?
What are the appropriate parental controls that we should be setting?
Are there risks in keeping these devices so close to their bodies? How can we minimize that risk?
How do we keep up?
It’s clear that so much is on our minds on this subject.

But there are some exciting upsides too!

Quick and easy access to information and knowledge which leaves our kids and us with more time and mental space to process, think critically, and write about. In the past, we spent more time gathering information.
Kids feel empowered – they have access to anything they need to know and don’t have to depend so much on adults for their answers.
The ability to create new connections based on common experiences and interests via social media, blogging, and other virtual spaces.
Opportunities for individualized education using online courses and programs (Khan Academy is one example).

Person having a video call

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels

Easy access to reviews for products and services so that we can make more educated decisions on purchases.
Opportunities for expanded creativity – for example, smart music software, digital arts, learning new things on YouTube, creating videos, etc.
Ability to more easily stay connected to family and friends who live far away via tools like Skype, FaceTime, and even texting and email.
Encourages us to engage in conversations with our kids about limit setting, safety, good choices, and using social technologies in positive ways.
We can stay in touch with our kids much more easily.
Allows everyone to explore their own individual interests (choosing shows to watch, things to learn on YouTube, apps to play, things to create, etc.)
Fosters some level of independence in being able to find things that most interest each of us as an individual.
Kids can FaceTime with their peers to get homework help in a more personal way.
Kids can more easily communicate with their teachers to get homework assignments, ask questions, and advocate for themselves.
So much goodness blended with so many unknowns, right? This place of disequilibrium will sort itself out and we will find a healthy balance, but I think it will require some experimentation, awareness, patience and tweaking before we get there. It comforts me to know that I am not alone and that we will figure this out together!

It’s clear that technology is not going away, so these discussions are the beginning of finding ways to co-exist in a healthy and integrated way that ultimately enriches our lives.
I wonder what you think (comment below)! Do you have these questions too? Have you been able to find a balanced approach in your family?

Read more expanded views on Parenting.

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