5 Memo-reading families share their secrets about kids & tech

There’s a battle taking place in homes across the country, a daily struggle between parents, their kids and technology.

With millions of children joining social media and getting smartphones from a young age, parents are feeling powerless to fight back against technology which all too often is taking over family life.

So how do parents cope? Is there a secret to make sure your kids have healthy relationships with technology?

We asked 5 Memo readers with kids to find out:

Children are embracing technology like never before. Image: YouTube/ipadapps.

Toby Cummins, solicitor, with three boys aged 9, 6 and 1

Are you worried about your kids and tech?

​At the ages they are at the moment, definitely, and mostly about screen time.

My 9 year old [boy] is increasingly interested in online gaming and although he’s not pressuring us for a mobile phone or personal tablet yet, he would dearly love one.

So how do you deal with technology?

I am very much in favour of technology and the benefits that it can bring to the boys and their lives — plus it will be increasingly prevalent.

To restrict it with our slightly old-world view would be short-sighted.

​So we allow 1 hour per day screen time each during the week, and 2 hours at the weekend — all administered via digital timers on the cooker.

Image: Getty/ ljubaphoto.

Emily Venugopal, PR Consultant at Emerald Room, with a 5 and 7-year-old

Are you worried about your kids and tech?

Generally speaking the things that most concern me are: Over exposure to any screen, whether this be the TV, Netflix on the iPad, games on my iPhone etc.

Most things in today’s society seem to involve a screen. You go to the dentist, there’s a screen, get in a car, there’s a screen, someone’s kid acts up, they are passed an iPhone, etc.

I don’t want my kids to be the sort of kids to stop being active or social and watch too much TV all day if I can possibly help it.

So how do you deal with technology?

The general mantra in our house is that screen time is fabulous, but only in moderation.

The moment that anyone says they don’t want to go out for a bike ride, to a party or to do sports or activities because they want to watch Angelina Ballerina or finish a world in Minecraft, they know me or their father will take the screen away for the entire day.

So far it’s worked, but they are still young, so that might all end tomorrow…

Kids sitting with mobile devices in street. Pic: iStock/JackF
Pic: iStock/JackF

Elena Sinel, Founder of Acorn Aspirations, with a 14-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son

Are you worried about your kids and tech?

With Victoria, it has been different type of technology, depending on her age: TV since primary school, phone since secondary school (until then she was not trusted to have one).

With Alexander — it is not a problem yet as he goes to nursery where there is no TV and when he is at home, I set the rules, e.g. I limit the time he watches TV for us to read, play outside or so activities indoors.

So how do you deal with technology?

We turn all technology off at dinner time and at bedtime.

During all other times there is a balance: homework is currently a priority and I know my daughter spends a great deal of time revising for exams and assessments.

As children grow older it becomes more and more difficult to “manage” their relationship with technology.

It all falls onto the foundation of trust built from early years, i.e. I know my daughter remains in tops streams at school, which means there is balance in how she uses the phone, which I know these days is mostly used to revise and communicate with her friends and family.

Graham, with a 19-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter

Are you worried about your kids and tech?

​No.

My son was playing 18 games (Call of Duty, etc) aged 14 or 15, and we have never restricted their usage or activity.

But, and it’s an important but, we are always talking to them about what they are doing, who they are talking to, etc. And we don’t allow them to lock themselves into their rooms for hours on end.​

So how do you deal with technology?

Our house rules are only: Stop when we say stop; tell us what apps you are using; we won’t invade your privacy so long as you give us an idea of what you are up to.

Arguably it’s a catch-22… we don’t know what they won’t tell us.

On the other hand: they both know that we know their passwords, and can check any time we want to!

Nathalie Christmann-Cooper, co-founder at TreatOut, with 13 and 14-year-old boys

Are you worried about your kids and tech?

Tech became an easy ‘babysitter’ as I work from home and it’s a bad habit that has carried on as they’ve got older.

I worry about who they’re having conversations with through the Xbox. They both have headsets and are constantly talking with their friends, sometimes the conversation can get quite heated if the game doesn’t go their way.

Then there’s the phone use, if you take away the Xbox, they reach straight for their smartphones. They rarely watch TV unless we make them come and sit with us to watch a programme or film.

Adult content I find really hard to police. Peer pressure makes it nigh on impossible not to let them have access to adult rated (18+) games, even at primary school which is really hard work when you are the mum that says no.

So how do you deal with technology?

We always start with the best will in the world and then end up failing miserably. The problem is we’re just as bad as adults.

I can’t expect them to be mindful of their relationship with tech if we are just as guilty ourselves as parents permanently glued to our laptop/phone/iPad.

Our latest task is to remove the phones from their bedrooms at night and charge them in the kitchen, it lasts for about a week and then we start to forget.

We’ve also set a curfew on being online, so gaming stops at 9pm. Friday nights they are free to stay on much longer. We’re making an effort to down devices when we eat together so we can get back into having conversations.

We seem to have built up trust between us, they are happy for me to walk in their bedrooms and ask them to show me what they’re up to. I try to keep it conversational rather than ‘big brother’ watching, I’m even passed the headset now and again much to my embarrassment.

My boys were introduced by another boy to the delights of ‘Redtube’ [a porn website] when we went to visit friends one weekend. They were still at primary school at the time.

It opened our eyes to how exposed our kids are.

We can protect them and set rules as much as possible in the home, but once they step outside the front door, we just have to hope we’ve instilled the right messages and equipped them with enough knowledge to handle any situation they may find themselves in.

Do you have a secret or unique way of dealing with your kids relationships with technology? Let us know.

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