It is important for parents to be realistic about their children’s education and the resources it requires. We have reached a day and age when, like it or not, our children depend on technology, both in the classroom and at home, to keep up with the lesson plan and their classmates. Even those among us who may have resisted buying a computer in the early days are now coming to terms with the reality that our children are expected to be competent in—and can benefit from—technology.
As schools continue to build and expand computer labs, introduce computer technology and design lesson plans around mobile apps, it is more important than ever to prepare our students to use and benefit from these tools.
But an experienced parent also knows the downside of technology. With each great learning tool comes an addictive video game, an inappropriate website, or a distracting video-streaming service. It is hard to let the negatives outweigh the positives, especially as the learning side of these devices continues to improve.
Here are five ways you can balance the use of technology without compromising your student’s learning process.
Find a Balance
Your first step does not need to be banning all recreational use of the computer, iPad, or other learning devices. Let your student know that games are okay, but the device is ultimately for learning and that function has to come first. Games and Internet time should not be an obstacle to getting work done.
Remember, as the parent you are ultimately control of how your student spends his time at home and how they treat the resources you’ve provided. Set hard rules at first to help your student establish habits of responsibility. You might start with “no games or internet before homework is complete,” or “no more than an hour of non-homework usage per night.” When your student has shown he or she can use the device responsibly without your direction, you might reward them by relaxing some of the rules. Just be sure they hold up their end of the deal!
Encourage Games That Have Educational Value
Just as students must honor the importance of homework by getting it done, parents should also be aware that some video games can, in fact, be educational. You may be aware of games that have educational value, or you can ask your child to explain how the game they are playing is teaching them something (you should know your student well enough to tell if they’re pulling your leg). The truth is games such as Civilization series can teach students a thing or two about history while also being very entertaining. If you think a game is really good, you might even extend your student’s “video game curfew,” so long as they are playing an approved game.
Monitor Student’s Progress
Once rules and habits are in place, check-in on the progress your child is making. Are his or her grades up? Is she honoring your rules and staying within the time limits you’ve set up? Or has Internet time slowly started to creep into homework time? Habits, even good ones, aren’t permanent, so you’ll want to keep an eye on their behavior. If your student can’t manage his or her time or resists the rules you’ve put in place, you don’t have to throw away the computer, but you may need to take additional measures.
Lock it Down
Nobody wants to play the bad guy with his or her kids, but tough love is sometimes necessary. When computer distractions get out of hand, you may find you need to revoke your child’s Internet and gaming privileges.
One way to accomplish this is to verbally disallow these functions. But we all know how persistent kids can be. The easiest way to ensure the computer doesn’t get abused is to implement internet filtering software, like Net Nanny, which allows you to set time limits and filter unwanted sites. Both Apple and Android also have parental screen time features.