Tagged: parenting Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Doug Belshaw 1:10 pm on July 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , parenting   

    The trials and tribulations of being a digital parent (Part 2) 

    Smartphone by Rami Al-zaya

    A few months ago, I wrote about how difficult it is being a parent of pre-teen children in the age of smartphones:

    Parenting is hard, especially with your eldest child. You’re making it up as you go along, especially in areas that no one has a lot of expertise. On the one hand, I don’t like censorship and spying – which is why we’re switching from BT to A&A for our broadband next week. But, on the other hand, there’s an innocence to childhood that needs to be protected, especially when we’re putting such powerful devices into such small hands. My son needs to know we’re looking out for him.

    I mentioned how we had decided to use the McAfee Safe Family app to limit the hours at which his smartphone was available to him, and to see what he’s been up to. In conjuction with Norton App Lock, which limits the apps he’s able to access, I’ve found the Safe Family app to be extremely effective. However, I’m questioning whether we’ve got the overall approach right.

    It might be worth adding some background information at this point. As a teenager growing up in the 1990s, I used to go on the internet without my parents permission, signing up for a Compuserve or AOL account with my parents’ credit card, and then cancelling the trial before the end of the 30 days. It was dial-up internet access back in those days, so I kept the calls less than 60 minutes long — which meant they wouldn’t be itemised — and I went on the internet at times that I knew the rest of the family wouldn’t use the phone.

    Why do I bring this up? Because my son is trying as hard as he can to circumvent the controls we’ve put in place. He’s found ways to do this, perhaps by using my PIN code, I’m not sure. I have to admire his effort, but it raises a wider issue about digital parenting. If your child is sneaking around, then there’s obviously a problem and the ‘solution’ isn’t working. As Mimi Ito quite rightly points out, “limiting screen time without addressing deeper problems is not likely to lead to positive outcomes”.

    The difficulty is that this generation of young parents are on the front line here. We’re the first ones to have to deal with screens everywhere. At the same time as we’re warned about the dangers, we’re also exhorted to prepare our offspring for jobs of the future. Mimi Ito again:

    It’s natural to hope that controlling access to a device might make our kids smart and well-adjusted, but if only it were that simple. Maybe it made more sense when TV was the only screen, but given the wide range of activities that screens are part of these days, a focus on screen time is too blunt an instrument.

    There’s a very specific problem, almost a paradox at the heart of digital parenting. Although Mimi Ito was a parent to a teenage daughter before the explosion in smartphones and tablets, the way she describes the problem is spot-on:

    My daughter taught me this lesson when she was twelve. One summer, I was irritated with the hours she was spending watching TV shows on YouTube. After I started clocking her screen time, she quickly developed a strategy. She would use her limited screen time on what I considered the most inane uses of the computer and I would inevitably give her more time for more “productive” screen activities like learning new skills or creating digital media.

    We’ve witnessed this with our son: the more we limit his screen time and access to devices – either in response to sneaky behaviour, or family priorities – the more he’ll use the reduced amount of time to play games that are in no way constructive.

    It’s difficult. I know that what we should be doing is sitting alongside our children, exploring the digital world together. But that’s just doesn’t seem possible sometimes. And, just as children tend to the question “what did you do at school today?” really tedious, so they don’t particularly want a conversation about what they’ve been up to on their tablets.

    One thing that’s missed when dealing with digital parenting at a macro level is the issue of personality. I think there may also be gender differences too, but I’ve got too small a sample to be able to tell. Some people have more addictive personalities than others.

    So, we’re caught in a Catch-22 situation: on the one hand, we’d quite like to try the ‘unlimited screen time’ approach, and see what happens. On the other, we’re in the midst of sanctioning our child for using his devices at times we’ve specifically tried to block.

    Answers on a postcard, please! Thankfully, the summer holidays are approaching, meaning that we’ve got an opportunity to try being a bit more relaxed about all of this…

    Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

     
    • Aaron 9:47 pm on July 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      My daughter is addicted to watching unboxing videos and people make things with Play-Doh. We have set in place that she can only do it at certain times, in the interim though she gets so anxious about her ‘iPad time’. If that is the case, I wonder then if that misses the point of reduced screen time or just build resilience?

    • Doug Belshaw 11:07 am on July 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, indeed. Listening to a podcast on ‘the extended mind’ yesterday, I realised that there’s a different argument to be made for depriving others of access to smartphones and tablets: http://philosophybites.com/2017/03/andy-clark-on-the-extended-mind.html

  • Doug Belshaw 8:53 pm on January 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , parenting   

    The trials and tribulations of being a digital parent 

    Kid with smartphone

    My son turns 10 this month. For most kids in England, that would mean he’s a year away from getting his first smartphone. However, we live in Northumberland, where there’s a First, Middle, and High school system. As a result, kids start walking to school by themselves in Year 5, when they’re just nine years old.

    He made do from September until the end of 2016 with a Nokia feature phone. However, for lots of reasons (not least the ‘two ticks’ showing that a message has been read in instant messaging apps like Telegram) we wanted to upgrade him to a smartphone as soon as he was ready.

    Orginally, he was to have my wife’s old iPhone 5c. That was one of several old phones we had around the place, including an iPhone 4, a couple of Firefox OS phones, and an antidiluvean Android. I wasn’t averse to spending money on getting the right device but, to my mind, it was the operating system that was important.

    For example, Firefox OS is great, even if the operating system is no longer updated by Mozilla. I’ve got a friend whose 11 year-old son uses one of these devices. However, my friend’s son is obviously a bit more trustworthy than mine, as the lack of parental controls in Firefox OS means that he would probably access stuff via the web browser that I wouldn’t want him to see at such a young age.

    I considered Ubuntu Touch, but it’s almost impossible to buy a handset running that operating system. There are ways to flash Android devices to use it but, even then, from what I read, it’s a sub-optimal experience and with ports maintained by individual developers. People move on, we’d be left hanging.

    Windows Phone is not only dying, but it’s Microsoft, which I wouldn’t go near with a bargepole. That, then, leaves Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. I wanted him to have a phone that felt like his rather than just a generic thing that’s controlled by Cupertino, so I decided that even though I have misgivings about setting him up with a Google account so young, we’d go with Android. At least his Google account uses his pre-existing personal email address, rather than one @gmail.com!

    There’s a couple of great things about Android. First, you have access to change things at the operating system level – something that Apple would never let you do. Second, although Google add all sorts of proprietary things on top (including the battery-draining Google Play Services), the core of Android, AOSP, is free and Open Source.

    For reasons too arcane to go into here, I decided to upgrade (‘sidegrade’?) my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact to a Oneplus One. So, I was now in the situation where I had a spare Sony Z3C, in all of its waterproof glory, with an extremely tough case that I’d chosen 18 months ago. Instead of selling it, I consulted with my wife and we decided that, if we could configure it in a way with which we were both happy, our son could have it.

    To cut a long story short, we’ve used a combination of two apps to configure his Android device. After testing, we felt parental control apps like Dinnertime Plus were too invasive. Instead, the first app we’ve opted for is McAfee Safe Family which, after reading many glowing reviews from happy parents, and trialling its features, seems to do 90% of what we want. In particular, I’m delighted with the way it allows him to find out about things like gambling and dating sites, while preventing him from accessing the services themselves. I can also view his browsing history, restrict use of his device to certain hours, and even choose to get notifications when he enters/leaves certain geographic areas.

    The second app is Norton App Lock, which does one thing extremely well: requiring the entry of a secret security pattern to access any apps you choose to restrict. That means that our son can’t access Settings, the Google Play Store, Hangouts, or Google+. I’ve also deactivated YouTube, and other Google apps like Play Music.

    Parenting is hard, especially with your eldest child. You’re making it up as you go along, especially in areas that no one has a lot of expertise. On the one hand, I don’t like censorship and spying – which is why we’re switching from BT to A&A for our broadband next week. But, on the other hand, there’s an innocence to childhood that needs to be protected, especially when we’re putting such powerful devices into such small hands. My son needs to know we’re looking out for him.

    Our children return to school tomorrow, so it will be the first test of the above configuration. Fingers crossed, and we’ll see how he gets on…

    Image CC0 Gaelle Marcel

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
shift + esc
cancel
css.php