In our house, to promote healthy device use, we also utilize recharging and storage along with other daily necessities to help build good device hygiene in younger children.
When you have children who are device active, you may need to do some creative parenting to help them build good use habits. In my house, we have developed several tactics to do this, including device storage and charging.
For us, these two items go hand in glove. We charge the devices at night and during unplugged hours. (A bit of background, we do not allow devices of any kind into the children’s bedrooms during evening/night hours. We also have times during the day like meal times that are “unplugged, ” i.e., device-free times.) We do all device charging on a purpose-built charging station that is away from where the kids use them and are in clear view of the major parental traffic flow. When the device is “away” or off limits, maybe for the night, or just for some non-device playtime, it is on this station, on its shelf. We can see it clearly, and it is obvious to the adults if one of the kids comes and tries to sneak it away. We do this by having color-coded areas for each device and a cord and power block there for each device. This took a little work to arrange but was worth it. Now, if number three’s Ipad is not in the station, there is a bright green paper pad visible where it should be, number two’s is red, number four’s is orange. When the device is present, the pad is covered, and we can simply look and see that it is away and plugged in. The main way we maintain this is by taking all the power blocks from around the house and removing them so they can only plug the cords in at the station. Again, this took some doing but was worth it. Each child has a power pack battery, and it also has a place on the station, these are used for charging away from home, in the car, or during the day for things like Pokémon hunts. Those battery packs also have a labeled space in the station and a cord and block. Each has the child’s name on it, so they cant take brother’s, and everyone seems to get along that way. This has also promoted some small amount of ownership in the item, something we have talked about several times in the past. It also helps them think ahead as we don’t ever share batteries. This way, if we leave home, everyone has a fresh battery, or they don’t get to play. Missing the hunt a few times help them remember to put that battery back in the station.
The best part of this plan is that the kids can’t take their device off to their room, and therefore I don’t have to worry about them staying up all night playing games on them. I also set up our home wifi and account parental controls to turn off each child’s access at a specific time so that they have over an hour of no device before bed; this allows them to wind down, decompress, get ready for bed and get sleepy without a device in the mix. I have said many times that I don’t demonize devices or their use. This doesn’t mean that I don’t set limits on them. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t understand how the increased brain activity caused by the electronic games and apps can keep a child wound up and make it harder for them to sleep. I do promote device use by all ages, as I feel the potential benefits at least out weight the potential dangers, especially if properly monitored by actively engaged parents. However, I try to also promote healthy use habits, good online etiquette, and teaching children to be responsible members of the digital world and that includes teaching them when NOT to use their device. The parents, professionals and the media seem prone to painting device use by children in a negative way. I feel that this is unfair and inaccurate. I am also seeing a trend now of promoting a “digital detox.” As I have said in the past, I don’t believe in a digital detox because I don’t think that healthy use is toxic. If instead of teaching proper use, etiquette and restraint, you simply allow them to binge, then have to make them purge, you are building bad habits and poor device use. Perpetuating this digital hygiene will surely affect them negatively after they are away from you, probably at college. I have seen this happen in the past with video game consoles, I had a roommate that had never had a Nintendo console, so when he went to university, and I had one, he played it night and day, eventually dropping out of school due to poor grades. I firmly believe that his case would have been different if he had been allowed to make his mistakes and learn proper use as a child when the stakes were much lower. That is just my opinion.
Even with my acceptance of technology and my open attitude toward it, my children find my limiting their use to be draconian and highly unfair. I am OK with this. I don’t care if they like me, I don’t care if I am unfair, I only care that I can look myself in the mirror each morning knowing that I have done my level best to raise them right to become honest, upstanding members of society in all ways, including digitally.
To recap, my methods for limiting use is by limiting access to the device, limiting access to charging, limiting bandwidth, and setting rules for use when the device is not limited. We maintain device free areas in our home, specifically the dinner table, and we have device free times, including the hour before bed so that their minds have time to wind down without the flashing lights and fast action of electronic games. We control access by placing all devices prominently in the main traffic area of the home therefore clearly visible if the device is put away properly or has been spirited off for illicit use. Happy kids are important, but healthy kids are paramount to a families success, and so we focus on that first, including healthy device use and healthy unplugged time.