Internet use at home can be an area of frustration and worry for a lot of families. Today I'm sharing what is working for our family (so far) and how we make technology a positive at our house.
Are your kids back in school yet? My oldest starts today, and my kindergartener will start on Thursday. It's been a long summer, and I think we are definitely ready for school to start, but there's always that little twinge when it's time to say goodbye to carefree summer days. This week on the blog, I'll be sharing some fun back to school posts, including recipes from our back to school celebration and some fun ideas for school lunches. Stay tuned!
I thought it would be fun to start today with a post about how we use technology in our home. I had the opportunity to attend a blogger lunch with CenturyLink a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking about how we use technology in our family, and how to teach our kids about technology. Back to school time is a great time to talk about technology with the kids and make a strategy that works for you. My husband and I are by no means experts, but we've figured out some ideas that work for our family, and hopefully they will give you some ideas that you can adapt for your own family!
START THEM YOUNG
Ok, not really. I'm not advocating giving a tiny kiddo a smartphone and letting them watch until their eyes glaze over. However, kids are never too young to learn that technology is a useful tool, but not the most important thing in the world. As much as I love staying up to date with friends, and usually have my phone within arm's length, I make a point of putting it down and making eye contact with kids and husband when they're talking to me. They are the most important thing to me, and anything on my phone can definitely wait. It will be much easier for me to teach them that family comes before technology if they see me doing it first.
Technology isn't going anywhere. As time passes, it becomes more and more important in our lives. Every time I see a blog post about kids and technology, there are always a lot of comments saying something like, "When I was a kid, we didn't have a computer. Kids these days shouldn't be using computers." My approach is that since technology will play a big role in my kids' lives, it's my job to teach them how to use it in a positive way. When my nine year old asks me a question (like "Where do ring-tailed lemurs live, Mom?") we look it up on the internet together. We sort through results and talk about how some information on the Internet is lower quality (or just plain false) and we discuss ways to find correct information. We look up recipes together, find pictures of funny animals, and learn about places in the world we've never seen. It's like having a giant encyclopedia at our finger tips at all times. How cool is that?
We have passwords on every device that we own, and our kids have to earn technology time by finishing homework and chores, and getting along with each other. They get a set amount of time (usually 30 - 45 minutes), and they have to be somewhere where Mom and Dad can supervise. Since they're still so young (9 and 5), we have them mostly limited to educational websites and apps (like PBS kids and National Geographic Kids), and we have parental controls so they can't get onto anything too weird. If they want to google the answer to a question, or watch a video on YouTube, they have to have Mom or Dad with them. There's just too much weird stuff out there, and they don't have the judgment yet to sort through all the garbage.
TALK TO THEM ABOUT THE DANGERS
My kids are definitely a little sheltered, but they tend to think that the internet is a magical land of My Little Pony games and Taylor Swift music videos. Sometimes they do get frustrated about the limitations we've placed. Without being too graphic, I've explained to them that there are some really terrible things on the internet, from kids being mean to other kids, to violence or inappropriate pictures and videos. All of the limitations and controls are to keep them safe and to protect them. My nine year old and I have had several discussions about never giving personal information to strangers on the internet, and that sometimes people on the internet are not what they seem. We'll keep reinforcing these rules over and over as they grow, to (hopefully!) create a groundwork to keep them safe as they grow more independent.
MAKE IT PART OF LEARNING, NOT THE FOCUS
As great as technology is, it's not a replacement for living life. Just because we can see nature on the computer screen doesn't mean we're actually experiencing it. Some of my favorite teaching moments have been when we've integrated technology into our learning without letting it be the focus. For example, we might decide to go on a nature walk, and use the computer to find a trail near us. Then when we're actually on the walk, we might look up the animals and plants that we see on my phone, or use GPS to map our route. I love having information at my fingertips, but there's no substitution for actually getting out there and living. It's important to us to teach our kids how to find a balance, and not let technology take over their lives.
My lunch with CenturyLink was a fun learning opportunity, and I had a great time connecting with other bloggers in the Salt Lake area and learning about how they use technology. I think we're all in a similar place - technology is a huge part of our lives and our kids' lives, and we want them to be able to use it in a positive and safe way. CenturyLink offers one of the fastest and most reliable internet services in Salt Lake City, and they are continuing to build their infrastructure to provide the fastest internet in the future.
I loved what one of the representatives from CenturyLink said - their job is to provide access so people can curate, contribute, consume and create content online. We all know how frustrating it is when the internet isn't working, and the kids have an assignment due for school or a bill needs to be paid online. CenturyLink provides reliable service and 24/7 customer support, so you can keep getting things done without worrying about unreliable internet. They are the leading internet provider for Utah, and are currently offering 100Mbps for $20 a month through October, which is a killer deal!
My favorite thing we talked about at the lunch was what CenturyLink is doing to give back to the community. Their Teachers and Technology program gives yearly grants to teachers who exemplify the use of technology in the classroom, and just this year, they have donated more than $55,000 in grants to teachers in Salt Lake City. CenturyLink is committed to STEM education and has a partnership with the Utah Jazz to recognize outstanding students in science and technology. They are committed to investing in the communities they serve, and I was very impressed by all they do to give back. If you're in the Salt Lake area, definitely look into their services!
Now that I've shared with you what works for us, I would love to hear how you handle technology in your family. Each family is different, of course, but I would love to know what works for you!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of CTL. The opinions and text are all mine.