Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Web Secret #363: managing media

The age at which children get a new smart phone and access social media is getting younger and younger.

We want to benefit from new technology but we are increasingly buried by it.

What to do?                

In his excellent New York Times article "How to Manage Media in Families," Bruce Feiler gives us some answers.

Bruce is skeptical of the dozens of online sample contracts for parents to execute with their children. He notes,  "I'm realistic enough to know that a three-page contract will be swiftly ignored and even it can’t keep up with the last parent-avoiding app. What I craved was a handful of overarching rules that could guide our interactions."

So, here is the abbreviated version of Bruce's rules:

1. I’m Still Your Parent
Parents should set guidelines in advance: make it clear that you own the device, you pay for it, and if there is any behavior that you feel is not true to your family values, you can take it away.

Part of this deal is that you will respect their boundaries, but you also have the right to join any social network they join, know their passwords and check their texts. Though it seems as if children know everything about social media, actually they’re still learning.

2. Step Away From Your Phone
Phones will be turned off and put away at certain times of the night. Research backs this up. A study from the University of Basel found that teenagers who kept their smartphones on at night were more likely to watch videos, text and have poor sleep habits and higher depression.
But, when parents say, ‘You can use the phone only from this hour to this hour,’ it’s hard to manage. So set rules like all phones go in a box when children go to bed, all devices go in the center of the table during mealtimes, including at restaurants, etc.

3. Read Every Text Twice
Explain that digital communication can easily be misconstrued. Before you send a message, go back and read it again. Everyone agrees on the need to prevent children from sexting, bullying or posting something inappropriate. But how to convey that? Think about your grandmother, think about the principal. Think about the most embarrassing adult in your life. Before you hit send, reflect on how that person would react. I would add: discuss when a phone call, an in person meeting, even an e-mail should be used rather than a text.

4. No Phones at Family Time
Everybody I spoke with had certain rules about family time. Specify. Just 10 minutes. No devices. That’s our time together. Have weekly technology-free activities.

5. The Rules Apply to Grown Ups Too
Parents, are often the most egregious technology abusers of all. They also need to follow rules.

One final caveat: "No technology agreement can be written in stone. It needs to be revised with every
new child, every new phase, every new device and every new app."

Amen to that.

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