The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.
In our house, a large part of the weekend is devoted to running errands and doing all the chores that didn’t get done during the week. Last weekend, my 11 year old daughter and I headed to Home Depot to pick up some items for a home improvement project. As I picked up necessary materials, I let my daughter wander the aisles and reminded her to stay out of trouble.
Before checking out, I caught up with my daughter in the power tools section of the store. I found her admiring a DeWalt 20-Amp cordless reciprocating saw, the kind used to rip through sheets of wood and cut longer lengths of wood down to size. She looked up at me and said, “Dad, will you get this for me?” At first I was surprised that she would want such a tool, but then I thought What harm can come from buying a power saw for an 11 year old? She really wants it. When we got home, she unwrapped her new saw and rushed out to the garage to start cutting up old pieces of lumber. So far, all 10 of her fingers are still accounted for.
Hopefully, this story made you cringe, and part of you wanted to pick up the phone and report me to the Department of Children and Family Services (800-25-ABUSE).
As Aaron Rodgers would say, “Relax.” I did not buy my child an electric saw. No responsible parent would give his or her child such a powerful tool without first teaching him/her how to responsibly use it and then supervising that usage. Yet we do just that when we put a cell phone in our kids’ hands. A cell phone is a tool that, when used responsibly, can be a great benefit to our kids. However, children need to be taught how to use it. As parents, it is our responsibility to set up rules and structures around how and when phones can be used.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a parent coffee at HMS on the topic of raising digital natives. As a conversation starter, the administrators and social workers shared a top ten list of ways to structure technology in your home:
- Model the behavior you want to see in your children.
- Educate yourself on the technology your child is using (Common Sense Media).
- Consider creating “no technology zones” in your home.
- Establish timeframes for technology use.
- Limit screens and media use in bedrooms.
- Use parental controls.
- Obtain all your child’s passwords.
- Encourage non-tech activities.
- Use screen time as a privilege.
- Communicate with children about risks, responsibilities, expectations of screen and media usage.
As a school, we understand the significance of putting an iPad in the hands of kids, and we have taught our students how to use them properly. Our teachers remind students about their digital footprint, and when kids make mistakes (which they all do), we handle it as a learning opportunity.
The best way to keep kids safe is to set boundaries, hold kids accountable, and partner with school. As your kids grow and these tools become a part of their lives, it is important to teach them how to use them safely.