We’re currently living in trying times, and it seems as though many of the recommendations we’ve been making over the past year for kids is somewhat outdated for our current climate of social distancing and keeping ourselves amused. Not only are we all having more screen time than before, but we’re also dealing with a lack of face-to-face communication.
There’s not really a best practice solution right now, as we’re all learning as we go. But we have a few tips on how you can be a bit more relaxed towards yourself and your kids whilst we are self-isolating and social distancing.
Kids in junior school are in an age range where they may not be responsible or mature enough to own a mobile phone, but there are other options available so they can still keep in contact with their friends and family that doesn’t rely on using their older siblings or parents’ devices.
If you want to bridge the gap, then a 5th Gen or later iPod will have all the wellbeing features included, including setting screen time limits, downtime and content restrictions that enable a healthy relationship to be built from the very beginning, and they will be able to use the messaging app to speak to other iPhone users. There are also applications such as Zoom and Houseparty that may enable cross OS face-to-face communication, but these will need additional supervision from a parent or guardian to ensure they are used safely.
You can find a perfectly suitable device for around £100, whether that’s a refurbished iPhone 7, that’ll still be supported for a couple years, or an ever-reliable Nokia 2.1. Buying a refurbished device is one way to keep the cost down of what’s going to be at high risk of being broken or lost.
Enable all screentime and content restrictions on an iPhone (providing it is on one of the new iOS versions) by going to Settings > Screen time and setting a screen time password for the first time gives you lots of control over what they can use and for how long.
Android is a little different, but if you download Family link it provides the same functionality across devices. A very handy tool!
Secondary school kids that already have their phones are probably suffering from boredom, lack of contact, not being able to go out, no extra curricular clubs or school. What else is there to do other than talk to friends on messaging or meeting apps like Zoom? Previously we’ve had time limits and well-being to ensure they aren’t spending too much time looking at the screen. But now, we may need to be a bit more relaxed on these, for their sanity of everyone involved.
Before being too strict with the parental control settings, there are well-being options such as wind-down an hour before locking, or focus modes during home study time which can really break those addictive patterns that, even as adults, we fight with, whilst still enabling them to use the device as necessary.
If you do want to maintain the parental controls, but don’t want to keep on adjusting or increasing the time limits, then perhaps allowing some of the communication apps to be used after this time will help them not to miss out on conversations in the meantime.
It’s still going to be important that they are getting consistent sleep patterns, so consider turning off device access to the internet past a certain time in the evening and potentially talk to other parents so that everyone can agree on a time that all the kids can be off the internet so that no kids are missing out.
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