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Kids, Technology, and Trust

By Tracey Gaughran |

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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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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Tracey Gaughran

Mama Pop is the independent voice for parents on pop culture, entertainment, gossip, fashion and web culture. Read bio and latest posts → Read Tracey's latest posts →

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4 thoughts on “Kids, Technology, and Trust

  1. Tracey says:

    I trust my kids, 17 and 14. The each have iPod Touches and laptops. I don’t enable the parental controls mostly because I am lazy but they also know I’m the tech guru in the house and know how to find what they do online.
    We have rules about use but no time limits. Homework, chores and other family responsibilities take precedence but trust in what they do is important. It works for us.

    Interestingly enough my daughter couldn’t care about Facebook, Twitter or spending much time online at all. She prefers her art stuff and texting with friends. My son, well he’s attached to his iPod and Xbox.

    What I won’t do is give my kids a smartphone. They have their cell phones and iPods and laptops. They don’t a smartphone and I don’t need to pay the data bill.

  2. Amy says:

    Oh, man. My daughter is only 6, so her experience so far has been pretty structured. She knows her way around the iPad and iPods and a few selected websites, but as far as she’s knows that’s all there is.

    BUT I’m the technology coordinator for a K-8 school and a few years ago the parental-freak-out shit hit the fan big time. Apparently the fact that the school provides MacBooks for all the middle school kids means that we are evil. And trying to endanger their sweet, innocent adolescents. Who also happen to almost all own iPod touches or smartphones or Nintendo DS. What did the parents think their kids were going to do with those things when they bought them for them? How is it my fault that these parents got to this point with their kids and are JUST NOW realizing that they need to actually guide their children through learning how to access the world through a little screen? I’m trying to teach the parents who to model appropriate use for their children, like I do every day.

    In the past couple years we have gradually relaxed the filter at school and found that the kids are much more effective at navigating the internet when they aren’t hitting a roadblock all the time. They are smart. They can learn how to do this!

  3. Jessi says:

    I think there is a line you have to draw and it’s going to be different for everyone. For me, you have to protect your kid from evil, but you also have to let them learn how to protect themselves. You and your fancy parental controls aren’t always going to be there. Giving them a little freedom allows them to develop a little skill.

    As for screentime, I don’t actually worry about that because my oldest would rather not deal with technology. When my three year old gets a little older I am going to have to seriously set limits, but right now, they do what they do and as long as what they do is responsible, I let them.

  4. MeresMOm says:

    I guess I’m the “mean mom” as far as technology use goes, but…I have a 7yr old, and she is not allowed technology at all from Sunday night through Friday end of the school day, unless it is necessary for homework (at her age, so far, it isn’t). And even when she is allowed to use it, she knows to ask me permission to go to sites we haven’t already discussed or to set up a user account anywhere. She also does not have now, nor will ever have purchased by me, a DS or any other handheld gaming device. Between playing with my phone, the Wii, the Xbox and our home PC she has plenty of tech toys available. In my humble opinion, kids need to learn how to occupy themselves without electronic babysitters.

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