With three kids and a lot of electronics in our house, screen time can take over. My husband I knew that a screen time contract was going to be a MUST.
The kids come home from school and they’ve been thinking all day long. They want to do something just wind down. One of my kids loves to watch her videos, another watches a TV program and my other child grabs the controller to play a video game.
I have no problem with this. Not at all. Well, until we realized they were using them a bit longer than we wanted.
As a parent, I understand that we live in a technology driven world. That is just how it is. However, we also know that we don’t want life to revolved around a screen. That is why we came up with the screen time contract.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CONTRACT
When we first our screen time contract idea, we received the well-expected eye rolls and moans from all three of the kids. They thought that we were going to tell them what to do and that they would need to listen. Imagine their surprise when we told them they had a say!
That is probably the most important aspect of creating a contract with your kids. Allow them to be involved in the process. Get their input as to what they need to do to earn the screen time, the length of time they feel they should have access to devices (school day times and weekend times).
What was interesting was that our kids were tougher on themselves than what my husband and I would have been! They really made sure that they were doing the right things in order to earn the screen time and to use it wisely. I’ll admit, this made me a little misty-eyed because I knew then and there my kids were learning what was important.
The way we got started was simple. We gave them each a questionnaire to complete. worksheet to complete. There was a total of six sections for them to fill out. My husband and also filled out the same sheet (to see if we knew our kids as well as we thought).
Even though our kids are all different ages, we believed that the contract could be one that we could all use. It not only would help our kids, but even my husband I are sometimes guilty of being sucked into technology. We wanted to be more present for our children.
Once we had the answers, we filled in the blanks from the screen time contract template (below). They signed it and so did we. Now, it is clear to both them and us how screen time works in our house and what they have to do to earn it and even how long they have access to it.
TIPS TO KEEPING KIDS SAFE ON-LINE
There is so much on-line that is dangerous to kids. As parents, we are doing what we can to watch it all, but that can be a difficult task. There are some apps and, programs and devices you can use to ensure your kids are safe and do not end up on those sites where we don’t want them to be.
As parents, we know that we can’t be everywhere. It is important that the lines of communication are open. You should ask your child for access to the device. Then, do research on all of the apps currently installed. That way, you can find out which are app masks – which hide what the app really does. For instance, there is one which appears to be a calculator, but when a code is entered, you can access hidden photos on the phone.
One tip I’ve heard from experts is to take your child’s phone at night and charge it your room. This prevents the late night texts and the time when many times, inappropriate behavior might take place.
We don’t want to spy on our children, but we also want to keep them safe. It is a fine line to walk and you know your child and what you can and can not do. Just do what works best – but don’t bury your head in the sand. Kids need direction and guidance to keep them safe.
If you want to use something in your home, one device is the KoalaSafe device. It connects to your router. This little contraption allows you to restrict access to sites and also has the added benefit of limiting connection time to them being online. You can personalize it for each child’s device and even have different settings for each day of the week.
I had the chance to review this product, and so you really will want to read more about that here (and even get more great details on how this works).
Rather than allow your kids to use just your regular Google or Yahoo browser, you might consider using one of these:
Kiddle. This is from Google and is a kid friendly search engine. The results will return kid safe sites and images.
AskKids. This is a great way for kids to do research, but only receive results that are safe for their viewing. This service is geared towards kids ages 6 – 12.
MyMunka. Turn this into your child’s homescreen. This service will block up to 98% of the stuff you do not want your children to see online.
KidzSearch. This is a search tool which is completely kid friendly. It too is the perfect home screen so when they go online, they access this screen first and as they search, they get kid friendly results.
YouTubeKids. This is a kid friendly version of YouTube videos. You can feel confident that your kids can search to watch the videos he or she wants — without worry that something you don’t want them seeing will show up on their device!
PROGRAMS & APPS
There are programs and apps you can install onto devices and computers to keep your kids safe and to even track what they are doing. Of course, you can use your parental controls, but these provide an extra layer of protection.
K9 Web Protection. This is an application which can install on both your tablets and computer. It restricts access to sites which might have the content you do not want your child to see. If they try to access them, they will be told that they are not allowed to access it. This gives you a bit of comfort if they are doing any searches for content without your knowledge.
iKey Monitor. While we know that parents need to talk to their kids, that doesn’t mean you really know what they are doing. If you want/need more tracking this is a great paid app which allow you to see anything your child is doing on their device.
Webwatcher. This is another paid service which allows you to track activity from your kids while they are online. Again, as much as we hope our kids are honest and we have access to all they do, there may be times when you need to know more. This might allow you access to that information including tracking sites, etc so you know what is going on.
TURN OFF APP PURCHASES
Make sure you have disabled in-app purchases on your devices. This will prevent even the accidental purchase of lives, coins or even apps or products you may not want.
- Turn off in-app purchases on Apple devices
- Turn off in-app purchases on Android devices
- Turn off in-app purchases on Kindle devices
There is so much on-line that is scary. From inappropriate websites to images and even predators, we need to keep our kids safe. They may not appreciate it right now. They also may not like us. However, it is important that we parent our kids first so that they can grow up safe. Then, when they are adults, we get the chance to be their friends.
What other tips and ideas do you have to add to help kids safe online?