These tips and tools are for you to consider, adapt or reject – we hope you find some useful ideas that support your family’s path to healthy tech use.
delay and scaffold the introduction of smartphones
There is a 16-year incremental process that children are guided through before being in the driver’s seat of a car. Why shouldn’t we think through an analogous process or scaffolding to introduce phones to our children?
With the carseat-to-driver analogy above in mind, there’s no need to jump from nothing all the way to an unrestricted smartphone. Consider letting the line out a little bit at a time. This visual is a suggested scaffolding – you can enter it wherever you want, depending on how old your kids are and your family values or needs. Just know there are many options that meet various needs but also help your child avoid the detriments that come with unrestricted access to the Internet, App Store, and social media.
If you'd like to be connected to other parents from your grade and school who are delaying giving their children smartphones (flip phones are ok!) until at least 8th grade, you can sign the Wait Until 8th pledge to join this larger movement. Once at least 10 parents from your grade and school have made the Wait Until (at least) 8th grade pledge, Wait Until 8th connects you as a group via email. We'll update community-wide progress on the ScreenSense homepage.
This list of suggestions and potential talking points was compiled based on conversations with local families who are delaying giving their children smartphones.
Achieve healthy tech usage for all ages
We suggest a three-pronged approach that includes (1) recognizing that as parents and educators we are modeling behavior; (2) setting family and school rules for digital usage; and (3) digital mentorship of our children.
model good digital behavior: this starts with self-awareness of our own usage
If you have an iPhone: update your operating system to iOS 12 to take advantage of Apple’s new Screen Time feature (located in ‘settings’), which increases users’ self-awareness of their digital habits on Apple devices. It also allows you to manage usage of family members. Read Delaney Ruston’s (filmmaker, Screenagers movie) overview of Screen Time’s features.
If you have an Android: An equivalent screen time manager and parental control app is available from Screen Time Labs.
An interesting read: an Atlantic article on distracted parenting from July/August 2018.
Set family rules & agreements around media usage
To set your family up for success, consider setting some parameters for media usage. Here are some favorite publicly-available samples of media agreements to use or adapt:
A family technology agreement devised by Polly Ely, a Marin-based therapist and public speaker on topics including managing technology at home.
The contract used by Janell Burley Hofman, author of iRules, when she gave her son an iPhone. Based on her work, Janell Burley Hofman has also built a template from which you can create your own personalized rules or contract between parent and child.
Contract advice and sample from Delaney Ruston (Screenagers filmmaker)
Know and Support your school’s policies for student phones/devices
Did you know that Mill Valley Middle School (MVMS) has an “Away for the Day” school policy? This means students are not allowed to access or use personal phones or devices during school hours. The following excerpt is from the MVMS policy handbook:
Unplug and Tune-in to Others: While we are a 1:1 iPad school, it is important that students take a break and balance their technology use. All personal electronic devices (personal iPad, iPhone, iWatch, cell phone, etc.) must be turned-off and in backpacks from 8:35 - 2:50 (2:28 on Wed) and school iPads are not permitted during recess, lunch, and passing periods. While we do open the library for lunch, students will not be allowed to use their iPads in the library during this time. Lunch is a great time for students to grab something to eat, talk with their friends, play on the field and blacktop, get some exercise, participate in intramurals, join a club, and enjoy being outside.
support healthy family habits and be an active digital mentor
This list of tips was compiled based on conversations with pioneering parents ahead of us, and after hearing about some of the stickier issues for local families. These tips are for you to consider, adapt or reject – maybe there will be a useful nugget for you!
Find developmentally-appropriate content that resonates with your values
Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices by offering “the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.”
Smartfeed curates a custom list of recommended media options for your child based on a profile you set up “with his/her interests, character traits or values you’d like to focus on, and academic areas you want to reinforce.”
Consider your family’s usage of media
Is your family using screen media more frequently as a way station or as a destination?
Using screen media as a way station includes: texting friends or using social media to coordinate a get-together (e.g., to meet up at a park to play pick-up soccer); spreading word about an event or issue; communicating logistics with many people quickly (e.g., coordinating a carpool).
Using screen media as a destination may look like: spending your evening on social media - scrolling, posting and commenting; spending your night watching YouTube videos; spending hours alone playing video games “with friends.”
Is your family using screen media more frequently for production or consumption?
Production includes: researching a topic, issue, or recipe; writing a paper, article, book, or letter; creating a PowerPoint presentation; collaborating with peers via Google Docs; making an iMovie about a topic; learning and practicing skills (math facts, learning a language, etc); coordinating details for an event; creating music, art, coding, etc.
Consumption looks more like: playing video games; scrolling through social media; watching Netflix or YouTube.
A compilation of suggestions and best practices based on lessons learned from parents ahead of us.
foster unplugged activities and relationships
Enjoy this list of tried and true device-free and portable alternatives for keeping your kids busy when being present isn’t an option.
Preserve and foster important non-screen activities and relationships
Food for thought: instead of framing the conversation around screen time limits, which are subject to much debate, perhaps we should focus on preserving and fostering non-screen activities and relationships that we know are developmentally important (and are often displaced by screen time nowadays). Before allowing recreational screen use, consider the following:
Has my child been physically active for at least one hour today?
Has my child free-played without a screen today? Or had to deal with overcoming boredom?
Has my child interacted face-to-face and in-person with friends or peers today?
Has my child been outdoors today?
Has my child had the chance to curl up with a book?
Is my child getting sufficient sleep for his/her age?