“Mama, when we get home can I check my text messages?” my six-year-old recently asked after running a few errands with me.
Before I had kids, I swore my future children would not have portable electronics. I wouldn’t be the family whose kids who were glued to screens. Fast forward a few years and three kids and all of my ideas about electronics went out the window. My kids were using portable electronics, they were using mine. When my oldest son pointed this out, I was forced to reevaluate.
It happened gradually….
All three of my kids have their own portable electronic. Our oldest got a cell phone when he was 11. We had a few stipulations and he couldn’t leave the house with it for the first six months. Then a few months later, my middle son got a recycled iPad. It was great to have 2/3 of our children assigned to an electronic. They weren’t fighting over who got to use which iPad. It was amazing.
Nine months later, we were approaching our youngest son’s birthday and we kept coming back to the idea of getting him an iPad. Could I really buy an iPad for a 6-year-old? I judged myself. But an iPad for him would make life smoother. At the end of the day, the positives outweighed the negatives. I am a total list maker and here are some of the factors that I weighed.
This was probably my biggest concern. How in the world would we monitor what they were watching and doing. A friend recommended Disney Circle which has been a lifesaver. It allows us to turn off the wifi to each electronic independently, set content limits and much more. An added benefit of Disney Circle is that it monitors any device on our wifi so we can keep tabs on babysitters and other visitors. Once we figured out how we would monitor their screen time, we moved on to other things to consider.
Our kids use iMessaging and text messaging to communicate with us, close family and each other. We preprogrammed immediate family members phone numbers/email address. We asked family members to write in complete sentences to encourage literacy for our 6 and 7-year-olds. It’s adorable to read the exchanges between the boys and their aunts about everyday things like lunch and recess.
I travel for work and texting with the kids allows me to keep in close contact. I send them endless pictures of fire trucks, port-a-potties and dogs without annoying my wife. I often send them videos to watch for when they are missing me. It makes traveling easier on all of us.
Suddenly our kids became responsible for ensuring their electronics were charged. There are no more fights about who forgot to plug something in. The kids also have to keep track of their own items. Lost electronic = no screen time. The natural consequences of forgetting to charge something only happened once or twice.
We limit our kids’ screen time. Each kid gets their set limit and at the end of the time, the wifi turns off to the electronic, rendering it useless. This means the kids have learned how to manage their time. Sure, they can get up on a weekend and watch an hour of screen time, but then they won’t have any time for the rest of the day.
Fast forward to now
A few months into our new electronic plan, I still question if I made the right decision. Sometimes, my kids still seem too little to manage the responsibility. But then I am reminded that they have adjusted to their new freedom and responsibility. And, I get to use my own phone again. It wasn’t an easy or quick decision to allow our kids to have their own electronics but it works for our family.