Author Topic: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens  (Read 1247 times)

electriceagle

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Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« on: January 23, 2023, 09:23:12 AM »
This post is inspired in part by the "Does anybody else not allow video games?" thread and in part by my  own thinking about my now infant son's future interactions with computers (which we now call "screens"...).

It is obvious to me that my son's generation will interact with computers far more at a far younger age than my generation or those in between. It is also clear to me that, especially over the past 15 years, the computer systems that most people interact with have been designed to exploit the user instead of being designed to help the user for a fee. Continuous connectivity has enabled doom-scrolling social media, video games that constantly change settings to encourage kids to buy in-game items, and hardware that is designed to resist installation of independent software. These practices have become the main tentacles of an industry that is training people to be used by the computer instead of using the computer.

At the same time, every child will need to learn to use computers for communication, document preparation, reading, and play. More importantly, they will have to learn to use computers for things that we haven't thought of yet. Those who learn earlier will have a head start on those whose parents try to shield them from screens entirely. This is true even at young ages, where toddlers who use touchscreens have better fine motor skills than those who do not (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01108/full?).

As a new parent, I want my son to learn to learn to use computers for his own benefit, rather than learning to be used by a computer for someone else's gain. Thus, I am more interested in putting together systems that will selectively allow healthy interaction with computers ("screens") than in saying "no" to screens. Limits on screen time are still valuable, but the quality of computer interactions is the focus.

I identify the following as unwanted computing:

Social media (until the kid is old enough that it is required for interaction with his schoolmates). The most successful social media platforms are the most explotative; the more addictive the algorithms, the stronger the network effect, and the more likely that one might need it in order to keep up socially.

Advertising. Advertising has long been designed to drive insecurity in order to sell products, but modern advertising has taken this to another level. The development of technology that follows people around digitally, combined with social media that bombards them with messaging and then sells them things is painful to even think about.

High-dopamine, low effort content. When the dopamine payout produced by playing a game exceeds that available from real life for the same amount of effort, the game will tend to displace rather than compliment real-life activities. Ditto systems of video display/recommendation. To make matters worse, modern games require forced updates that rejigger the game mechanics to make them increasingly addictive and expensive (sale of in-game items).

The three phenomena described above tend to be backed up by anti-competitive hardware. Computing systems that resist installation of software made by competitors, or resist installation of open-source software. Typically, this is done to force users into a position where they have no recourse against advertising, spying, and continuous annoyance.

However, there is plenty of desirable computing out there:

Many of the video games that I played as a kid had design, strategy, or planning elements that probably helped me to develop my mind. These can be good in moderation.

Although I prefer paper books, I recognize the value of ebooks. The ability to read a wide variety of material without having to carry physical books around is valuable.

Most importantly, there is the unknown. I don't know how the world will unfold over the next 20 years. AI will likely become important, and the ability to work with large datasets in a machine learning context may replace the ability to do math as a driver of professional success.

How are you all thinking about your kids interactions with computers (i.e., phones, tablets)?

chemistk

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2023, 10:51:27 AM »
I am one who is admittedly struggling with finding the appropriate balance for my own kids (7, 5, 3).

When kids are young like mine are, social media is hardly on their radar. Nearly all the kids in my 7 year old's second grade class don't have social media access, as far as I am aware, and I think there is enough information out there that most parents avoid it.

Advertising and video content are much more difficult to weed out in an open source environment. I say 'video content' in general, because try as we may (and boy have we tried), there are myriad sources of low, low effort content (which are often coupled with advertising) and no matter how hard you push back, the algorithms will almost always find a way to bring the garbage back to the top.

My kids, for better or worse (please, reserve your judgement) have access to YT Kids, controlled access to regular YT, access to certain streaming services, and access to a Nintendo Switch. They engage with these media through: our phones, our TV (with a Roku), the Switch, and a school-supplied iPad.

I bring this up because, as one who has desperately tried to meter the content for 4 or 5 years now, the only way to avoid ads and low effort videos are to only allow access to closed source devices with significant parental monitoring. We forbade YT on the TV, only to find that apps like 'Kidoodle' allow access to the same low-effort content. We tried to put blocks on our router for certain sites only to fine that the school iPad VPN can sail right past those blocks. If the device has access to the internet and weak parental controls, there are ways and means for kids to access things you don't want them to have access to.

The one thing that people don' frequently bring up - other kids and their parents. You may have a great system at home but outside of your home, there's not a lot you can do to ensure that other parents are taking the same approach. At 7, some kids have phones, and kids will all crowd around the kid with the device and watch whatever they are watching. Some kids have already figourd out how to get around school VPN blocks, and are sharing that information with kids in class. If your child goes over to another house, how comfortable are you in demanding that no screen time be permitted while on the playdate, if you're not willing to host them all yourself.

In 2023, it's very challenging to have control over 'technology' (the broad term we use in our house to categorize anything with a screen). No matter how many studies demonstrating negative effects of screens on children are published, our world is slowly being plastered with screens and technology. Kids, like a moth to a flame, immediately watch with rapt attention. From infants through teens (and even as adults, you have to admit), screens are eye candy.

My sons remember every advertisement we pass in the car displayed on digital billboards.

Like you say, this is the world we live in. Even if your kids aren't going to be software engineers or digital artists, everything now demands the use of technology. Most of the conversation among my oldest's friends centers around Fortnite, Minecraft, VR, or YouTube.

Those kids who don't have access at all to those things are ostracized. We teeter on that edge constantly - of those, only Minecraft (and only local play) is allowed in our house without supervision.

We can't pretend like we're doing our kids a favor by cutting them off and saying "you'll thank us in 18 years". Social isolation can really mess up a kid's development. I know this from direct, firsthand experience. But conversely, there is such a thing as too much.

In playing Switch games, my kids have developed some great problem solving skills. As bad as YouTube can be, there's a lot to be learned from it and kids will vacuum it all up (good and bad). We have a lot of fun with 'family movie nights' where we use a system my wife came up to randomly pick a movie that we have to watch.

They still read books, color, pay with Lego, play outside, rough-house, etc.

Every day I question whether the balance we have is right. That's the hardest part, because if you're sick or busy or incapacitated then screens are a great way for you to take care of what you need to without the kids interfering. If you're trying desperately to put the 1 year old down for a nap and the 4 year old keeps waking them up, handing them the TV remote enables you to get the baby to sleep. On long car rides, a pair of headphones and a few movies downloaded to the phone are great for keeping kids occupied.

Some families we know are more strict than we are with technology, and those kids wind up at our house half the time to watch something or play a few Switch games. Some families we know are much more lax, and our kids desperately want to go to those houses where there is access to more than they have here. We know no families who have a blanket technology ban. There is one family I suspect has a near blanket ban, but they homeschool and don't let their kids go to other houses unaccompanied.

I don't know how we are going to adapt and evolve with technology, and the access we will grant as the kids get older. We do have time and content limits, and barring extraordinary exceptions, the kids have to use technology where we can supervise them. Without 2-3x the effort we apply to this facet of their lives, I don't see us clamping down any more than we have, but I also don't see us loosening any more either.

ETA: I left out the most important thing - we try our darndest to be understanding with them. There is content that we have no clue exists and when they discover it, we try and not have a knee-jerk reaction. To us, it's absolutely critical that we have conversations about why certain forms of content are unacceptable. We help them to be able to understand how to identify technology and content that's appropriate vs. not appropriate. We explain our reasoning about why we don't have more technology in our house, and help them to recognize why other families might have less.

To me, gating all content for as long as possible is like trying to hold back the tide. At some point, you just can't anymore unless your kids are under your supervision 24/7. Part of being a parent is realizing that even when they're young, your kids are their own person and not your slave or puppet. By giving them some agency, they're far more likely to respect established boundaries.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2023, 10:56:17 AM by chemistk »

Laura33

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2023, 12:50:43 PM »
I also cannot claim any "right" answer or special knowledge.  The things that I have learned:

1. Do stuff with your kid instead of handing them an iPad to watch a movie on.  Not only does that give you a better chance to monitor what's going on, but it ensures the experience is more interactive vs. entering zombieland.

2. Be prepared to adjust your requirements at a moment's notice.  Some kids seem particularly susceptible to getting sucked in to the virtual world to an unhealthy degree, while others are just fine.  Don't get wedded to a particular approach if it doesn't work for the child you have.

3. Give your kids exposure to all the other aspects of tech along with screens -- things like Vex robotics, coding, etc.  It's all part of speaking the language and having a fundamental comfort level with tech. 

4. Discuss the issues and temptations with your kids, in an age-appropriate way.  Kids aren't born understanding that ads are there to make money for companies and are trying to be as appealing as possible to get you to fork over the $$.  So it's your job to teach them, and boy do screens provide a huge number of "teachable moments"!

5. Don't think it all has to be parentally-approved educational stuff.  Even a kid who is just fine eating a healthy lunch every day is likely going to want a bag of Cheetos every once in a while.  Better to teach moderation from the beginning (although see 2 above).  And on the flip side, don't consider yourself a failure if every once in a while you shove a screen into your kid's hands because you're just desperate for 15 straight minutes without hearing the word "mommy."*   

6. Remember that the ultimate goal is to have a kid who can self-regulate by the time they go off to college or to a job.  It does no one any favors if you hover for the first 18 years, then send them off to college 5 states away and tell them they're on their own.  Kids need to earn more freedom (and responsibility!) as their behavior demonstrates they are capable of handling it.  Really, your kid should be self-regulating by senior year of high school, so they have a year to "practice" being independent adults while still under your watchful eye.  Note that this is truly hard, because the older they get, the more their peer group and even school is going to rely on devices and social media, and the more dangerous it gets because now they're old enough to drive themselves somewhere and get in real trouble.  But to me, it was key to remind myself that the goal is to raise adults, not 18-yr-old children, so I could force myself to step back and let go (even when it meant letting them learn the hard way from some really iffy decision-making). 

*Ask me how I know.  And no, when your kid is massive ADHD, 15 minutes is not an exaggeration.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2023, 03:57:55 PM »
Similar to what Laura said, we do all of those things. The other thing we do is challenge ourselves (when the kids were younger) & then the kids (as they've become teens) to discuss what else they would be doing if they weren't on screens.

Are you spending an appropriate time on homework?
Are you getting enough exercise?
Do you make time to be social with your friends?
Do you need a break from all of the above? What are the other options that provide you with that, outside of screens?
What examples are we setting as parents?
If you have free time on weekends, can you/should you be helping out more with chores?
Can you get a part time job?

We find that it's much easier to talk through & address the gaps above, because screens are often the "solution", when one of these other needs isn't being met. When they were younger, we set firm rules around the above. Now that we have two teenagers, it's more often a discussion, although rules come into play as needed.

trollwithamustache

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2023, 06:06:49 PM »
we did no tablets/phones before age 10. It was pretty horrifying to many, but it can be done. After that they got kindles (at the time it had good controls/time limit functions) and could pick their age appropriate shows. Games were also allowed later (my wife was very anti computer/video games), but it didn't change the screen time limits. laptops came later but well before high school.

The downside of this is when we occasionally used TV to pacify them while we had a call or something, it didn't always work since they didn't always have shows they wanted to watch.

We also did the old fashioned living room PC for a long time. Even After they later got laptops (with parental controls/you tube blocked) the living room PC was unrestricted, but of course everyone could see what you were doing.


srrb

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2023, 07:18:22 PM »
I have two successfully launched young adults now. One is in a trade and the other in IT and an artist. Here are some things I think we did right (living in a wealthy, urban Canadian city):
Focusing on games like Kerbal Space, Civilization, Mindcraft and things that required them to think and be creative.
We had an old Nintendo system with some popular, silly games but they tended to only use it with friends.
Lego Mindstorms
Arduino, robotics, and related parts. Almost unlimited budget for those projects and supplies as long as projects were completed or "learned" with till unusable.
Similar to our money philosophy, once you did all the have-to (homework, chores, etc), your time was your own and you could spend it all on approved screens, if you wanted. Interestingly enough, the kid who spent the most time on screens as a kid is the one in a trade and no where near computers for most of his day.


Neither were that interested in social media -- which ties in with our overall parental values and how we move through the world. They had accounts so they could fit it, but neither were big users -- that I knew about ha ha. You never really know with teenagers.
My advice is to set reasonable boundaries like you do with other things: here is what is acceptable in our home, talk about peer and societal issues, stay connected with them as people with successes and challenges, then give them freedom to make choices and live with their mistakes.

ETA, they also both had part time jobs by 15. So by the time to have-to were done there wasn't a lot of time for screens. We also did a lot of outdoor family stuff together when they were younger, so they didn't have endless hours to fill.

« Last Edit: January 23, 2023, 07:22:33 PM by srrb »

Freedomin5

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2023, 10:00:35 PM »
We want DD to associate screens and technology as a tool to help us find information or learn things, not as a source of mindless entertainment (though of course, it can be entertaining to learn something new). Entertainment is secondary to technology being a tool.

So, we donít have TV. DD is almost nine and has never sat through an entire movie (we tried Cinderella and Lion King but she would rather do something that required active engagement.) The ipad is used for reading ebooks, drawing/sketching, and playing on the educational apps from her school. She also uses it to do robotics (DH is a computer programmer and teaches robotics and computer science). We donít have gaming systems.

DD has a smartwatch so we can track her whereabouts. She has one ďgameĒ on there, a virtual pet. She earns carrots based on the number of steps she gets each day, which she can use to feed her virtual pet. So again, there is a purpose for the game.

We ourselves donít watch TV. we use our phones as tools (no surfing Instagram or Facebook). We donít have Instagram or Facebook or other social media apps on our phones. DD sees us using our phones to communicate with others, order groceries, read the news/ebooks, search for information. So itís easy when we put controls on her media usage, because we arenít asking her to do anything that we arenít doing ourselves.

And when she talks about other kids having all the technology things, it provides an opportunity to have a discussion and critically think about whether others are making good choices.

Kids pick up values from watching their parents, even when you think you hide it well. As parents, itís equally important not to be hypocritical. If we want to instill certain values in our kids, itís helpful to make sure that we hold ourselves to the same standards.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2023, 10:03:20 PM by Freedomin5 »

electriceagle

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2023, 04:43:58 AM »
I am one who is admittedly struggling with finding the appropriate balance for my own kids (7, 5, 3).

When kids are young like mine are, social media is hardly on their radar. Nearly all the kids in my 7 year old's second grade class don't have social media access, as far as I am aware, and I think there is enough information out there that most parents avoid it.

Advertising and video content are much more difficult to weed out in an open source environment. I say 'video content' in general, because try as we may (and boy have we tried), there are myriad sources of low, low effort content (which are often coupled with advertising) and no matter how hard you push back, the algorithms will almost always find a way to bring the garbage back to the top.

Wow, there is a lot to discuss here.

Last things first, I suppose. I suspect that keeping the kid from accessing suspect media while at another kid's house is futile and that trying would just frustrate everyone. While there are things that I'd rather he never see, other kids at school will inevitably show it to him, so that's out of my control. The out-of-house stuff is logistically limited. My focus is on what the kid is immersed in, rather than what they interact with occasionally.

Just so that you know, Youtube is not open source. Open source refers to software, often made by volunteers, where the source code is available to the public. Youtube is closed source and centrally controlled; this is why it is able to push advertising to your kids no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

When he is older, I'll probably get my son a tablet and load it with a huge pile of books from Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/), plus a select group of books from Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/), which is one of the few large ebook vendors that will sell you a book without trying to rope you into their "ecosystem".

I'm not sure what to do about video. Scour garage sales / flea markets / ebay for Sesame Street DVDs? ABC 123 hasn't changed over the past 30 years; the only issue that I can see is if he doesn't know the same characters as the other kids. As far as I know, there is no video equivalent to Smashwords. Is there? I would rather pay with money than with attention.

Freedomin5

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2023, 04:48:29 AM »
You can borrow ebooks and videos from the library. My library uses an app called Libby. You find your library in the app and then you can borrow books and magazines and watch shows for which your library has subscriptions. My library also offers online courses.

chemistk

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2023, 06:17:38 AM »

Wow, there is a lot to discuss here.


For us, the cat's out of the bag when it comes to our kids knowing what's out there. We became parents before we were ready to be, and we've been playing from behind ever since. As a couple, we've had to do a lot of emotional maturing while raising kids. It's not a set of circumstances I recommend anyone find themselves in if they can avoid it.

Screens, for us, started out as a way to just get a second to ourselves. We started with little einstens, the wiggles, etc. but by disadvantaging ourselves, we allowed the rest of the content to creep in. Much of it, coming from exposure to other kids and to other families.

I want to be clear that one can still help kids develop a healthy relationship with technology, even if you get started on the wrong foot. But it requires mindfulness, patience, compromise, and vigilance. I have more energy, mental space, perspective, experience, and maturity than I did last year or six years ago and I like to believe that I am better able to help my kids with their relationships with the outside world than I was previously. I also strive to be better tomorrow than I am today. I play a handful of games on my phone, same as my wife. I watch YT, and listen to music, even around my kids. My phone is a tool as much as it is a form of entertainment.

The difference between us and those parents who are conscious of technology from the start, is that we did not have the emotional space or energy to fight that tide. We started with a neutral view of technology, and had blinders on. We came to depend on it in circumstances where were physically and emotionally checked out from parenting*, and in some ways we still do that. My wife's been dog-sick with a cold this week and as a result, our kids have had extra screen time. I'm not trying to advocate for our approach, but I want to be clear that ours is far from the most permissive. I'd say that at least half the kids in my son's grade have unfettered access to the technology of their choice. Who am I to say whether that's acceptable? I'm not a member of their households, and so I reserve judgement and focus on that which I can control.

But to that point, no matter how good the guardrails are that I have, my kids interact with kids whose parents have different views of what's acceptable. They end up learning about all the things that we've tried to shelter them from despite our best efforts. I fully anticipate that they will end up learning about explicit materials from their peers at school before we realize that it happens. There's a small vocabulary of words we've never taught our oldest, and somehow he knows them and knows the context in which to use them.

I know that part of this conversation is geared toward young kids and what's appropriate - and to that, I recommend not introducing screens meaningfully until they're at least 18mos-2years, and then after that, in small doses. Demonstrating healthy behaviors is better than tossing around seemingly arbitrary rules and restrictions (speaking from firsthand experience). But also be aware that unless you carefully cultivate and constantly monitor your child's social circle, they're eventually going to be given access to the things you've sought so carefully to hide. And to that end, I ask that you have grace with yourself and patience with those parents (admittedly, like me) who choose, for one reason or another to have a different approach to technology in the house.

WRT to YouTube,  I am fully aware of how it works and pernicious it is. But it's a two-edged sword. It can be the source of a great amount of learning as much as a mindless time sink.

*This causes some people to bristle, and some people to nod in recognizance of someone in a similar circumstance. PPD, when denied and ignored for ling enough, turns into regular depression. And regular depression and anxiety can permeate throughout the entire household. We did not ask for these afflictions, but through much pain and struggle we've learned to manage them and to live around them. This is where, again, I ask that anyone reading my comments reserve judgement on any perceived mismanagement of technology, or any perceived failures of parenting. I also challenge anyone who may view others who share a similar approach to technology with grace and empathy, because often those (and especially parents) who suffer from the worst effects of depression and anxiety do so silently, behind a mask.

srrb

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2023, 09:47:21 AM »
Thinking a bit more about this ... one, I noticed in my post I equated screens with computers/smartphones and didn't think about TV and ebooks.

Two, my kids had a television set in the family room with a collection of DVDs they could watch. That choice was due to refusing to pay to bring advertising into the house -- i.e. cable/network TV -- and maintain some control over what they were watching. I'd like to acknowledge how much harder keeping advertising and age-inappropriate media out of the home is now, and I'm not sure how I'd do it today.

Three, regarding what they are exposed to out of the house, that's not a new issue. I think I was in grade 2-3 when looking at porn mags a friend took from her parent's bedroom. VCRs were just coming out and I saw slasher flicks at sleepovers. I saw older siblings drinking, smoking, and making out with their girlfriends/boyfriends. None of that was allowed in my house. There is always going to be sex, drugs, and violence your kids will be exposed to when you are not around. I think the focus should be controlling what you can in your home, and then building relationship and discussion skills around the bigger picture of weird scary stuff they can talk to you about. And the courage to say "No, not interested." to their friends -- but honestly, I was always interested, especially if it wasn't allowed at home.

charis

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2023, 10:33:54 AM »
Three, regarding what they are exposed to out of the house, that's not a new issue. I think I was in grade 2-3 when looking at porn mags a friend took from her parent's bedroom. VCRs were just coming out and I saw slasher flicks at sleepovers. I saw older siblings drinking, smoking, and making out with their girlfriends/boyfriends. None of that was allowed in my house. There is always going to be sex, drugs, and violence your kids will be exposed to when you are not around. I think the focus should be controlling what you can in your home, and then building relationship and discussion skills around the bigger picture of weird scary stuff they can talk to you about. And the courage to say "No, not interested." to their friends -- but honestly, I was always interested, especially if it wasn't allowed at home.

I want to comment on this.  I'm not sure if parents of younger kids realize how much their kids will start to be exposed to other people's screens by mid-elementary school.  I thought I was well informed and I am still surprised.  First, it's not (just) at another kid's house - half the kids on my 4th grader's bus and all of the students on my 7th grader's bus have smart phones.  So while phones aren't allowed (out) at school and my kids don't have cell phones, they get a good amount of unfettered content with no adult supervision.  My 7th grader sees all the popular TikToks, etc., even though she has never had an account or watched it at home.

Second, and this is still crazy to me, most of the middle school parents that I have talked to, have NO filters on their kids' smart phones, allow them to have multiple social media accounts, and do not even check the content or whether the accounts are private.  It's not about smutty magazines and seeing teens making out, drinking, etc, anymore.  They will have access to stuff I don't even want to see as an adult.

This sounds all doom and gloom, but we need to be realistic that limiting screens and screen time in the home, supervising their online activities, and guiding them toward educational games is really only part of it. 

Hula Hoop

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2023, 07:15:00 AM »
I agree with @charis as the parent of a middle school and high school kid.  Both have smart phones but with family link so they have some filters, screen time limits etc. Younger one has no social media and the older one was allowed some social media when she turned 13 and then 14. 

But yeah most of their friends have unfettered access to the entire internet.  I have no idea what their parents are thinking. 

electriceagle

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2023, 06:51:19 PM »

Wow, there is a lot to discuss here.


For us, the cat's out of the bag when it comes to our kids knowing what's out there. We became parents before we were ready to be, and we've been playing from behind ever since. As a couple, we've had to do a lot of emotional maturing while raising kids. It's not a set of circumstances I recommend anyone find themselves in if they can avoid it.

I didn't intend to criticize at all. When I said that there is a lot to discuss here, I meant that I'm not able to respond to the entire post.

I'm lucky in that there was a lot of planning involved for me. Nobody is ever actually prepared, but I was fairly well situated for the infant stage. Now, as
we approach one year, I am thinking about 1-3 and up to 5 years old.

I'm sure that other kids will show my kid will I'd rather he not see until he is older, and that there is little that I can do about this. While I would prefer to keep him away from that sort of stuff, my main focus is on avoiding monopolization of the mind and encouraging good mental, intellectual, and emotional development.


EverythingisNew

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2023, 12:38:05 AM »
Ah I am struggling!

- they use screens at school! The 9 year old has a chromebook and the 6 year old has an iPad from school. Everyday they have to bring it home to charge it and they then play with them too. I understand the 9 year old having a chromebook, but the iPad for 1st grade I HATE! I almost want to move because of the tech usage at our elementary. I feel like itís sucking the life out of my kids. Also I am not sure what the school can see of their usage. My 6y son takes pictures and videos secretly with his school iPad and I donít like that the school is seeing into our home life so much. Also they can see what the kids Google. I get reports too and Iím not comfortable with this. Itís annoying to have to research the school devices to know what their settings and policies are.

- my husband disagrees with me. This is hard. He bought the game Minecraft and a car racing game for my son and now my son and the 4 year old are obsessed with it. We keep it in our room and only allow them to play it a few times a week, but it feels like a constant reward/punishment system since they love it but we restrict it. I donít like that it has become like this and I donít like the amount of parenting that I have to do to keep their obsession with Minecraft in check.

- YouTube on our smart TV is also a problem. They search ďMinecraftĒ and end up watching gaming videos that have teenagers and young men narrating battles and stupid content. We donít want to delete YouTube because itís one of my favorites for educational videos.

So itís hard! I recommend having strong rules from the start which we donít have. Be on the same page as your spouse. Itís hard because situations always push the rules, or lack of rules. This week I am going to try to again make a new tech policy for our family: leave school devices in the laundry room to charge. Itís takes a lot of parenting brainpower to navigate this ever present issue.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2023, 06:50:49 AM by KateFIRE »

Freedomin5

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2023, 12:59:39 AM »
So itís hard! I recommend having strong rules from the start which we donít have. Be on the same page as your spouse. Itís hard because situations always push the rules, or lack of rules. This week I am we aregoing to try to again make a new tech policy for our family: leave school devices in the laundry room to charge. Itís takes a lot of parenting brainpower to navigate this ever present issue.

Yes, this! And I would recommend first sitting down with your spouse and making sure you are both going to uphold the tech policy, so your kids can't play one parent against the other.

We as a family have the same approach towards tech at home, so it's actually been pretty easy for us. And we are by no means a tech-free home. DH is a computer programmer by training, and now teaches computer programming and STEM/robotics as his career. But we have a very clear understanding of where technology belongs in our lives, and DD is also clear that technology is not a toy or a source of mindless entertainment. Technology first and foremost is a tool that we need to learn to master, though the learning process can be an enjoyable one.

So DD knows that if her reason for wanting to go on the iPad is to "play a game", the answer is going to be "no". But if she wants to use the iPad to learn something, then the answer will be time-limited "yes".

chemistk

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2023, 08:02:56 AM »

I didn't intend to criticize at all. When I said that there is a lot to discuss here, I meant that I'm not able to respond to the entire post.

I'm lucky in that there was a lot of planning involved for me. Nobody is ever actually prepared, but I was fairly well situated for the infant stage. Now, as
we approach one year, I am thinking about 1-3 and up to 5 years old.

I'm sure that other kids will show my kid will I'd rather he not see until he is older, and that there is little that I can do about this. While I would prefer to keep him away from that sort of stuff, my main focus is on avoiding monopolization of the mind and encouraging good mental, intellectual, and emotional development.

No worries!

I tend to take a defensive stance on topics like these because this is one aspect of our lives that's particularly vulnerable to parent shaming. I'm not necessarily ashamed of our attitudes and approaches, because I am cogent enough to remind myself that given the circumstances of our day-to-day life we could have turned out a lot worse and been much worse parents.

If we could do it all over, I don't even know if we would have had kids to begin with. But if we did, I would hope to be as prepared as you are. My one recommendation outside of what I've already shared is to be a bit proactive in seeing what's available across various platforms. I do this from time to time - I search through Netflix, YT, etc. as though I were one of my kids and just see what kinds of recommendations are being posed to them and where those can lead. It enables me to not have to hover over their shoulder or to be out of the loop if they're talking about something specific.

jac941

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2023, 08:01:20 AM »
We tried really hard to have screentime limits and control when our kids were young. Then they were sent home from school for over a year due to COVID and their whole school life was over an iPad. My older one spent the year defeating all of the parental controls and playing games while he only half attended class.

We ended up sending the younger one to private school so that she could actually go to school, but the damage was done. We have completely failed to roll back the screens in any meaningful way since. Itís a constant battle.

FWIW video games are the main social glue for the upper elementary age kids. I donít think my older kid would have a social life if he didnít play video games with friends. Not sure if itís the age or the fact that all these kids spent a year on computers for school, but itís just the way they engage with each other now.

Our kids have access to all kinds of crap between home and school and friends with phones. I really wish we could dial it back in a meaningful way, but the cat is out of the bag. Now weíre trying to focus on making good choices around what technology and messages to consume. Itís hard.

trollwithamustache

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2023, 09:58:11 AM »
Several posters mentioned likely unlimited screen access at friends houses. We never worried very much about this. I figured if they were playing console games together or picking videos together that was not the same as sitting in one's room playing the game alone for hours on end.

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2023, 10:27:19 AM »
Several posters mentioned likely unlimited screen access at friends houses. We never worried very much about this. I figured if they were playing console games together or picking videos together that was not the same as sitting in one's room playing the game alone for hours on end.

I mentioned this - not as a point about duration or isolation, that's a different issue.  I meant as a warning about unfiltered content without adult supervision. 

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2023, 12:42:41 PM »
Get them watching YouTube videos that challenge and inspire them. How to light a camp fire, how to use a knife safely, how to ski, how to cook scrambled eggs, how to make art with drawing software, how to play video games that are challenging and stimulating for their age.

Get them using proper PCs and not consumer entertainment devices. Divide up the screen time into categories: making things time, thinking games time, free to watch brainless gaming videos time. Put on youtube videos about any software you want them to engage with.

Chill out. There are much worse things for kids to do than building worlds in Minecraft together with their friends. Try playing with them, it's fun. let us know if you manage to find diamonds on Survival Mode.

FINate

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2023, 01:21:37 PM »
Our DDs are 12 and 10.

The foundation of our tech/screen time family policy is that it's a privilege not a right. In other words, zero is perfectly acceptable, but we give screen time based on trust and with certain parameters.

Each kid gets up to 30 minutes of screen time during school nights, 1 hr on non-school nights. They have to do all their choirs and homework before screen time. Screen time is any time on a screen, so video games or any online activity (e.g. YouTube), or TV. Their choice, within certain limitations:
  • No violent/pornographic material.
  • They have to ask before watching a new show/series.
  • Same with new video games.
  • No social media.
  • No personal information on line.
  • No online accounts without our knowledge and permission.
  • No smart phones

Some days are too busy for them to get in their screen time (sports, homework projects, etc.). The time is not banked or anything like that. Again, privilege not right.

I use enterprise-ish grade networking gear at home (UniFi) and created a dedicated WiFi network for the kid's devices. This network is turns off automatically from 8pm-8am. It uses FamilyShield DNS from OpenDNS to filter inappropriate and malicious sites (free, and highly recommended). The router is configured to do packet-level inspection to restrict access to social media, VPN/proxies, Tor, and P2P file sharing. The router also forces Google and YouTube into safe mode. None of these are perfect, but as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention...

Our kids walk to/from school and roam the neighborhood on their own. For communication and to know where they are they have Gizmo watches (limited calling/texting, GPS tracking, no app store, no social media apps, no web browser). Oldest DD is going into Junior High next year, at which point we'll upgrade her to a Gabb phone (better calling/texting, no app store, no social media apps, no web browser).

For video games the kids mostly play Minecraft. We also have a Nintendo Switch, which I selected over other platforms because it has more of an emphasis on puzzle and party games over high-detail graphic shoot em up games.

We make exceptions to screen time for family movie and video game times. For video game night we get the entire family playing games together on the switch.

Screen time is taken away if there are behavior or trust issues. And we also gift additional screen time if they've done something to earn it.

Technology can work for you, but you have to be very intentional about how you use it or it will end up using your and your kids.

« Last Edit: February 06, 2023, 01:23:41 PM by FINate »

dang1

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2023, 06:05:48 PM »
One way that I helped balanced screen time for my now 25 yr old son, was encouraging him to be outside- walk, bike, swim, camp, boy scouts, and being with him in those activities- like my parents, with me. I suppose, him, being my only child allowed me to have intensive time with his activities. Iím glad he had that razr when he smoked me biking down the trail; at one point- the ranger was like, that must be your kid that went past me some time ago, lol

He still enjoys screens Ė got him a motorola razr in grade school, was in Club Penguin, his first laptop was the CR-48, he build a gaming pc in middle school- world of warcraft, call of duty, played ingess with me, still often has a laptop in his bag. We also talked alot about media, advertising, consumerism, just stuff about the world Ė economics, girls, politics, philosophy, music, the homeless, why people take drugs, struggles of relatives in a developing country Ė trying to figure out the root reasons why things are, the way they are. Since I was a fun dad that did fun stuff, lol, his friends would often want to ride with us in our car. That thereís right and wrong, good and bad, and also grey areas in between- figure out your moral compass.

I suppose kids are different- he prefers paper books to e-readers; balanced seems to be sticking. Heís into bicycling, did trail repair in the grand canyon (I was like- ok, better get this kid a garmin inreach), worked for the bureau of land management, now in a forestry masters program. These days, his daily driver is still a galaxy s8; his strava is busy

chemistk

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2023, 06:27:41 AM »
Our DDs are 12 and 10.


Kudos to you, sounds like you have a good handle on things.

I'm curious about your internet setup - how easy would it be for someone with only the most basic networking fundamentals to understand and set up? How easy is it to manage? If DD's had school-issued devices with VPN, how good is it at preventing unauthorized access to sites through that VPN?

FINate

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #24 on: February 07, 2023, 08:01:16 AM »
Our DDs are 12 and 10.


Kudos to you, sounds like you have a good handle on things.

I'm curious about your internet setup - how easy would it be for someone with only the most basic networking fundamentals to understand and set up? How easy is it to manage? If DD's had school-issued devices with VPN, how good is it at preventing unauthorized access to sites through that VPN?

The DNS filtering is very easy to setup and should be supported by most routers. Just follow the instructions from OpenDNS to configure the DHCP server to hand out the FamilyShield DNS IP address to clients. This is easy to bypass by someone with basic tech skills, but it's a great first line of defense. As an added benefit, this will also prevent most scamy and malicious sites from being accessed withing your home network.

Setting up a separate WiFi network for the kids isn't something most consumer grade routers support. It's possible to daisy-chain a separate WiFi-router off your main router to provide a kid specific network, though this will result in a "double NAT" situation that may cause problems with certain games.

Packet-level filtering requires more powerful and specialized hardware. I use the UniFi Dream Machine, though the newer UniFi Dream Router is probably a better fit for most folks unless they really need 1 gbps (in which case, go with the rack mounted Dream Machine Pro). These are not consumer devices and they require a fair bit of networking know-how to configure. But once configured they just work and I spend basically zero time managing my home network. If my kids attempted to connect a laptop with VPN it wouldn't work because the router blocks all VPN traffic. In this situation I would consider connecting the laptop to our main network and be much more vigilant about monitoring usage.

chemistk

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #25 on: February 07, 2023, 08:17:34 AM »
Our DDs are 12 and 10.


Kudos to you, sounds like you have a good handle on things.

I'm curious about your internet setup - how easy would it be for someone with only the most basic networking fundamentals to understand and set up? How easy is it to manage? If DD's had school-issued devices with VPN, how good is it at preventing unauthorized access to sites through that VPN?

The DNS filtering is very easy to setup and should be supported by most routers. Just follow the instructions from OpenDNS to configure the DHCP server to hand out the FamilyShield DNS IP address to clients. This is easy to bypass by someone with basic tech skills, but it's a great first line of defense. As an added benefit, this will also prevent most scamy and malicious sites from being accessed withing your home network.

Setting up a separate WiFi network for the kids isn't something most consumer grade routers support. It's possible to daisy-chain a separate WiFi-router off your main router to provide a kid specific network, though this will result in a "double NAT" situation that may cause problems with certain games.

Packet-level filtering requires more powerful and specialized hardware. I use the UniFi Dream Machine, though the newer UniFi Dream Router is probably a better fit for most folks unless they really need 1 gbps (in which case, go with the rack mounted Dream Machine Pro). These are not consumer devices and they require a fair bit of networking know-how to configure. But once configured they just work and I spend basically zero time managing my home network. If my kids attempted to connect a laptop with VPN it wouldn't work because the router blocks all VPN traffic. In this situation I would consider connecting the laptop to our main network and be much more vigilant about monitoring usage.

Thanks for the explanation - for me, it's primarily the VPN that irks me the most. Our district provides devices for all students starting in 1st grade and of course they're all preconfigured with VPN to allow the district to prevent access to inappropriate content. Of course, all the kids have figured out that you can watch unfettered YouTube through the browser and doubly worse, our son needs his school device for snow days and occasionally for an assignment.

I know technology in the classrooms is almost a necessity at this point, but I do really wish there were better controls at some level of the deployment to enable better content management.

FINate

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Re: Planning for kids' healthy interactions with screens
« Reply #26 on: February 07, 2023, 10:17:01 AM »
Thanks for the explanation - for me, it's primarily the VPN that irks me the most. Our district provides devices for all students starting in 1st grade and of course they're all preconfigured with VPN to allow the district to prevent access to inappropriate content. Of course, all the kids have figured out that you can watch unfettered YouTube through the browser and doubly worse, our son needs his school device for snow days and occasionally for an assignment.

I know technology in the classrooms is almost a necessity at this point, but I do really wish there were better controls at some level of the deployment to enable better content management.

Yeah, I can see how the VPN policy is irksome, but I also understand why the school district does this from a policy perspective. It's shocking how many parents have zero oversight on what their kids do online. Like, here's a smart phone or laptop completely unlocked, no filtering whatsoever, go wallow in the dregs of the internet. Of course, porn and violence and bullying follows, but also tons of malware and generally bad stuff you don't want on your home network. My guess is this latter issue is what the school district IT department is most concerned about when it forces all traffic through their filtering.