Parenting with Technology

Successfully navigating parenting paradoxes in the technological landscape that is modern life.

How Do I Protect the Devices From My Children?

We have talked a lot about how to keep our kids safe online and how to teach them to safely and properly use their devices, but what about the devices themselves? How do we protect them? These devices are so fragile, how do we have so many devices in the home and not have a constant loss from breakage, after all, kids are brutal to toys.

Well, there are several things we do to keep the devices safe and usable over the long term. Let us face it, even a cheap tablet or smartphone isn’t cheap, and we are talking here every day about putting that device that costs the same as a laptop in most cases into the hands of a 50lb wrecking ball.  My Son can break anything by accident and usually in less time than it takes me to type this.  Don’t believe me, ask my cat.  Here are the steps we take to protect those devices.

First, I don’t care what the device is or how much it costs, I always pay a little extra and get the device protection plan from the manufacturer.  The major companies, Samsung, LG, Microsoft, and Apple, are awesome about fixing broken things perfectly for a very low rate if you have the plan. In my house, we are all iOS for the kids (I feel it is safer, we have covered that in a previous article) so when we decide to budget for a new device, we include the protection plan from the start.  That is expensive, but it is my opinion that if you feel you can afford the device, but not the protection plan, then you actually can’t afford the device and should probably wait to purchase it.  You wouldn’t buy your teenager a car with no breaks and just assume that they will get by until you can afford breaks, that is silly.  Why would you do the same with anything else?  Budget for the full amount, then when you have saved enough for it, buy the device you want them to have with all the features you want them to have.

The second thing I do to protect the devices is, we buy really good cases.  No joke, kids think cases are lame, especially teenagers, but just make, then enforce the rule that if you find their device outside of its approved case, it is gone.  Then, actually follow through the first and second time they test you on it.  No matter how much noise they make, be the parent and punish them by taking the device.  Make it for a pre-prescribed amount of time, then stick to your guns and make them go without it.  It should only take twice, maybe three times if you kids are stubborn like mine.  After you have stood your ground on the case issue, the device will be much safer, and you will hold your breath less, especially in public when you child is waving the thing around and bumping everything in sight with it.  Ok, so we are going to make them use a case, but which one? Well, the top five rated tablet cases for kids according to Laptop Mag are:

Koooky Eddie the Frog IPad Air case

Ok station EVA Drop-Proof IPad mini case for Baby

Belkin Lego Builder Case for IPad mini

Griffin KaZoo Fox Case for iPad mini

A link to the full article is here: www.laptopmag.com/articles/tablet-cases-for-kids

The cases we use are:

The Fintie Kiddie Case for IPad mini (we have two of these, and they are nearly indestructible. 

On the full-size iPads, we use Unicorn Beetle PRO series.

Both of these cases are practical, fairly inexpensive, feature rich, and very protective.  I have watched the Kiddie bounce down a wooden stair without a mark, and I have seen the Unicorn Beetle take a 3-foot drop to concrete onto a corner and not only didn’t it break the Ipad, but it also didn’t even mark the case.  Before we found these cases we ran the gambit with the manufacturer branded cases, covers and also aftermarket flip-covers and cases with little or no real practical use or protection.  These two were so good, when we needed more, we purchased the same thing again, I have two or more of both of these cases, I have seen them perform under extreme conditions and I highly recommend them.

The third things we do to protect our devices is, in my opinion, the most important and the useful.  We build ownership in devices and objects.  Here is what I mean.

If you child has some skin in the game, something on the line that they worked to get, they will value that object more.  I believe in building a strong work ethic in people.  To do that we need to start building it when they are young.  To foster this, my children work.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not into child labor, or having a house full of crying kids on a forced march.  I have used several resources over my life, and I have a working solution to keep my kids involved in helping out, and it seems to be working.  My daughter, at 14 went to town and got a job.  At 16 she still works.  Her grades are good; she has a social life, has many nice things, and has bought most of them for herself.  She has a college fund that she contributes to and also saves for future wants, ambitions, and goals.  Contrary to pop-culture, she has worked at something most of her life; it has not harmed her at all.  (Frankly, I believe that if more twenty to forty-year-olds had been taught this as a child a strong percentage of our news, wouldn’t be.)  Remarkably, she not only survived, but she has also thrived, has had lots of fun, had a well-rounded growth experience, and had time to pursue other interests as well.  I have been told by other parents that “By making my kid work, I was stealing their childhood from them.”  If by that they mean that I am using childhood to prepare them to be responsible adults, then I guess I am.  My older kids will tell you that yes they have chores or jobs, but yes, they also have a lot of fun, maybe even more fun than many of their friends because they also have nice things that they bought for themselves that they value and enjoy which their friends don’t necessarily have.  This is also true for my younger kids and their devices/games.  They all have earned at least some part of them, and therefore value them and actively try to take better care of them.

This is not automatic.  The first device that each child buys or invests something in some way, they may not value.  If this is a new concept for your family, and your kids have had everything given to them in the past, and you start this, it will NOT work with the first device.  Stay the course.  They have to lose something before they understand what all that effort they put forth actually cost them and what that loss feels like.  Once you get over that, they will be much better at taking care of their things.  This has not always been my plan, like you, I am learning as I go and my parenting is still a work in progress.  My daughters first iPhone was a inactivated iPhone 3GS.  It was basically a glorified iPod that she could text message from if I filled the pay-as-you-go sim every month.  I gave it to her, told her how to take care of it, and she ignored me.  “Dad wants me to have it. Therefore, dad will replace it”. As soon as she had seen the newer iPhone 5, she “accidentally” smashed the 3GS.  To bridge the gap I gave her my old 4.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this reinforced the idea that any time she wanted an upgrade all she had to do was have an “accident.”  Several iPhone 4 and 4s later, I got wiser.  When she broke the last one, it stayed broke until she could afford to buy her own.  She chose the 5c; it was salmon pink and the cheapest Apple phone on the market.  She paid full price for it out of money she earned and saved.  Though soon after its purchase, she wanted to upgrade to the 5s,  she realized that without Daddy paying for them anymore she wouldn’t be able to afford the upgrade or replacement.  That 5c immediately became much more valuable and lasted a long time.  When she finally did upgrade, that 5c was in such good shape that she passed it on to a family member who got another year or more out of it.  Her current 6s is a little rough around the edges, is a year and a half old and has with it the rule that if dad catches the phone out of the case or without a screen protector, it is going to the impound for a week.  She doesn’t like this plan but now, after years of living with me, the horrible overlord tyrant that I am, she knows that I am serious and chooses to keep the phone in its case.

I realize that this example was a bit wordy, but you get the idea.

With these rules in place, I have had two children with iPhones and four kids with iPads or other tablets now for eight years, and other than the units in the example above I have had zero other units lost.  My eleven-year-old son still uses his old pre lightning connector version of iPad.  He cracked the screen on it once soon after receiving it, the local iCracked repair shop happily took his birthday money to fix it and since then has had no other issues with breakage.  My eight year old got an iPad mini the first year they were out (age three maybe?) and it is still in perfect condition.  When young boys, (basically mini tornadoes made up of noise and dirt) can have a device that fragile and use it past obsolete, thanks to a great case and personal responsibility, I have no concerns buying more.  The point is, my kids are not perfect. They are very typical, but by following a few rules and having the responsibility through ownership, they can have a device and keep it nice indefinitely, and so can anyone else’s child. However, if a parent doesn’t care, doesn’t bother with the protection plan, doesn’t invest in a quality case and lets the kids know that the device has no value and will be replaced at will, they will always have issues with damage and loss.

Categories: kids tech

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