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The 5 Rules of Technology | Keeping Kids Safe and Sane in a Digital World

There’s an idea in parenting that it’s better not to give children direct commands because it sets them up to disobey us. If we tell them to clean their room and they don’t, parental control is weakened and our sense of authority is diminished.

That’s probably why most experts (think teachers, rabbis, principals) will not directly tell today’s parents what they must do to protect their children from the destructive elements of technology. They don’t want to set themselves up to be disregarded and have their authority diminished.

But we don’t have the luxury anymore to be ambivalent. There are rules of due diligence, the absolutes that we must commit kids and technology rulesourselves to in our homes if we want to be responsible parents. These are the guidelines that we must enforce consistently and confidently. And remember, all forms of technology are privileges. If kids use their devices responsibly, they earn the privilege to use them. If they don’t, they don’t.

Parents who have clarified their values and work together as a united front to set healthy limits will not cave in to any form of pressure (including psychological torture).

The 5 Rules Of Technology For Children:

1)      Communicate with your kids and help them make good choices

As our children get older, we can’t tell them what they can and can’t do and see in the same way (you may have noticed). After the age of bar and bat mitzvah, they are responsible for who they are and the choices they make. What we can do is talk frankly with them, ask them questions and help them navigate the limitless world that is at their fingertips. When we maintain healthy and open communication, and respect their own ability to make conscientious decisions, we help them foster an image of themselves as responsible young adults capable of making good choices. Ultimately they won’t be under our watch at all. We want to raise emotionally intelligent kids who know themselves and can control their impulses on their own.

2)      Model the behavior you want to see in your kids

Don’t expect a single thing from your kids that you can’t do yourself. Face the reality that your kids live your behavior. If you don’t want them to check their phone every minute, don’t keep yours in your pocket and slavishly respond to it every time it buzzes.  Ask yourself how you want your children to manage their digital world, and behave according to the exact same standards, even when no one’s looking (you know your kids are psychic, don’t you?).

3)      Filter those devices

Parents today are an interesting bunch. They are anxiously invested in the outer dimension of their children’s lives and manage their academic, social and athletic calendars with exquisite precision, as if their very lives depended on it. We often forget that the only thing that really matters is the inner dimension of our children’s lives; their character, their commitment to a life of meaning and purpose, the quality of their souls.

Giving your child an iPhone or an iPad without a filter is like loading a gun, handing it to your child and asking him not to pull the trigger. It is simply irresponsible and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why all these hyper-conscious parents are making such a tremendous error of judgment.

I admit that filters can be a nuisance and your kids might be quite annoyed because no one else in their class has an albatross standing in the way between them and their desire for instant and total access. But it’s worth it. Be realistic and honest with yourself: one click of a finger and your child is privy to a world you never even knew existed when you were a kid. Many parents feel that their child is trustworthy and a filter isn’t really necessary. It’s important to understand that this isn’t about trust. Instant access to absolutely anything and everything is a whole new world. Your home is meant to be a shelter in the storm, and access to destructive content within your four walls just isn’t acceptable, even if you can’t always control what happens on the outside.

4)      No hidden accounts

When kids know that parents are paying attention, online risks decrease. Parents should have software that allows us to see what our kids are doing online; all Facebook and other social media activity, all posted pictures, all texts should be completely visible to parents. Kids might seem to resent this and call it invasive (or some four-letter equivalent of invasive), but deep down, they want their parents to be invested in the areas of their lives that really matter.

5)      The Twenty-First Century Curfew

In the olden days, we used to have evening curfews to make sure we returned home by a certain time. Today, we need a little bit more. Installing a digital curfew on your child’s mobile devices allows parents to set time limits for usage and decrease dependence on their devices. Charging phones outside the bedroom is also a must. Healthy sleep patterns and buzzing devices are mutually exclusive.

How You As A Parent, Make A Difference:

A cursory reading of this blog might leave you with contradictory messages. Are we empowering them to make good choices through a healthy relationship, trust and communication? Or are we laying down the law and creating non-negotiable rules? Which one is it?

The answer is we must do both. Ultimately, our children will only emulate our values when the relationship is positive and the modelling is consistent. The foundation of all parental effort must begin with managing ourselves and our own impulses, as well as insuring that the relationship between us and our children is loving and the communication is open. If we don’t have that foundation, all these rules can create power struggles and tension and may even backfire, sending our kids deeper underground.

Love. Communication. Respect. Consistent modelling. Rule and regulations. Clearly articulated standards and limits. These are all necessary ingredients in the soup that is today’s always-connected, instant-access digital world. And this is what parents must commit to if they want to responsibly raise their children in today’s world.

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Posted on: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Author: Ali Begoun
About: Ali is a longtime Jewish educator and popular life and relationships coach. Anyone who has learned with Ali will testify to her warm and connective style and her ability to make Judaism relatable and relevant to our personal lives. Ali teaches a wide array of Jewish topics, but her primary focus is on the Jewish approach to self esteem, personal growth, women’s issues and relationships. In addition to her popular classes, Ali also offers private life coaching sessions, personal growth groups for Jewish women, a Bat Mitzvah club for girls and an upcoming fully subsidized trip to Israel in October, 2014. Ali and Rabbi David are the proud parents of Chana, Talia, Aryeh Leib, Eliezer and Yosef.

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