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Like it or not, smartphones are everywhere, and children are using them at younger and younger ages. What's a parent to do?
A recent parent coffee at ACDS raised many interesting questions as parents and teachers shared ideas, traded recommendations for apps to help tame children's smartphone use, and left with a new resolve to monitor and manage screentime.
Six takeaways from the session
Tricks (and apps) can help.
Parents brought recommendations for external controls, such as OurPact, which lets parents block sites and schedule screentime. Also popular -- a simple rule about having guests who come over for a playdate (and hosts, too) put their phones in a basket upon arrival so play can focus on non-screen activities.
Conversations about the appropriate use of technology, social media, and various apps should start well before those tools are actually in children's hands. "It's important that we build up their social skills before they fall into this world of social media," says ACDS social-emotional learning coordinator Morgan Henschke. "It has been shown that having a lot of 'likes' on a photo app, for instance, can give kids a false sense of connection. They need to experience real connection, face-to-face, to develop those skills in the real, not the virtual world."
No phones in the bedroom or at the table.
Seems simple, but prevents all kinds of woes.
There's no such thing as multi-tasking.
Especially when doing homework, kids need to focus. "If they are constantly interrupted by a notification or a post, that breaks their stride," said one parent.
Know the passwords, check frequently.
Children must be at least 13 to use many apps, per the online agreement when they sign up. This rule seems to be widely ignored, however. "Ephemeral" social media, such as Snapchat, seems to be the most vexing for parents. As the messages disappear, there's not always a way to see what kids are sharing. You have to balance kids' natural desire for independence and privacy with reasonable monitoring for safety.
Parents, be open with each other and share what concerns you.
"If you see that your child and others are sending messages that don't seem right, you should feel free to talk with the other parents," says Jennifer Bohnen, head of Lower School. "We all want to be partners with each other in helping kids learn to use these powerful tools."
Here are links to articles and sites discussed at the coffee