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Kids, Technology, and Trust

After dropping the kid off at school this morning, I flipped the radio on and caught an NPR segment focusing on today’s release of the latest generation of Kindle tablets. In the piece, the reporter mentioned that while his kids of course love tablets and the latest Kindles have new, highly advanced parental controls in place — ones that allow parents to set time limits for playing games or viewing movies, but that let kids read as much as they want, for example — that he still wouldn’t be letting his kids spend time alone with one any time soon. There are, after all, risks involved with letting kids fly solo with technology.

(DUN DUN DUHHHH.)

And though I wouldn’t debate that those risks do indeed exist, my own attitude about my daughter and her use of technology has become increasingly laid back and less hovering as she’s gotten older. At ten years old she’s all but physically wired now as the proud owner of an iPod Touch *and* a MacBook Pro, and as someone who spends most of my day staring at a computer screen it seems like it would be more than a little hypocritical for me, at this late date in her interfacing with technology, to even attempt to decry its relentless advance into her tween world. A bit like closing the e-barn door after all the animated gif horses have skeedaddled or something. So I don’t, basically.

But I do set time limits, and I do use parental controls — I’m mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not anything electronic goes over here — though I admit to wondering if this tack I’m taking is the right one, ultimately. After all, it seems to me that once they reach a certain advanced age (say nine or ten), rather than applying artificial systemic controls to devices that eliminate options and choices, shouldn’t we maybe try actually trusting them instead?

I’m taking baby steps in this direction.

At precisely an hour before bedtime every night screen time becomes verboten in our household, which leaves my daughter the option of reading or drawing in bed for those remaining 60 minutes of awake time. A few nights back, as we were saying our goodnights, I noticed her iPod Touch sitting on her bedside table. In that moment, I had basically two choices: remove temptation, or trust her.

“No screen time at bed time,” I said, gently wagging my finger at the iPod Touch. “Just a reminder.”

“Yeah I know,” she replied, not even acknowledging the presence of The Screen of Temptation.

“Cool, cool.”

And then, over my shoulder as I was leaving the room: “Sweet dreams!” and with a laugh, “Don’t betray my trust!”

I could hear the eyerolling for a good five minutes after from all the way downstairs.

Okay, so that was not the most graceful of parental exits and certainly it was not the best example of Relinquishing Control and Having Faith, but the point is, I let the iPod Touch stay where it lay, trusting her to abide by the rules. Trusting her.

I know, EPIC, right? Yeeeeeah. Well allow me emphasize again: BABY. STEPS.

But really, how much should we trust kids with all of these new technologies? Are parental controls enough, in your experience, or are they too much (as in, too limiting/controlling)? And if trusting our kids is not only a necessary part of growing and maintaining a healthy relationship with them, but also essential to their psychological development and their sense of agency and responsibility, how and when do we enact that relative to tablets and iPod Touches and screens of all kinds? How are you handling all the screens in your household relative to your kids?
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Read more from Tracey at her personal blog, Sweetney

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More of Tracey on Sweetney & Spice:

- Home Alone: When Is It Okay To Leave Kids At Home?
- 10 Reasons To Not Get Plastic Surgery
- 7 Easy Ways To Have A Better, Happier Relationship

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