I recently had a friend of mine ask my advice about what we do regarding our daughters laptop use. Her daughter will be getting one next school year.
All of the advice given to parents says, keep computers out of kids bedrooms. Then they get to grade nine, aged fourteen and the school laptop program kicks in. Provided by the school, paid for by parents, each child is given their own laptop. This is to be used in class, used for assignments and used for homework. It has Internet access and school based programs and filters. You really can’t say no thank you, we won’t have one. The school then has several guest speakers visit and talk to the kids and the parents about Internet safety. Most of which is quite frightening.
Our daughter up to this point had been doing homework at her desk in her bedroom. Driven there mostly due to two little brothers and the household’s evening noise and chaos at the dining table and lounge room. So her bedroom is where the laptop was being used. One of her first assignments after being given the laptop was done as a pair and this required our daughter to be talking to her friend over the internet whilst doing the assignment together. Back in my day we would have needed to be driven to our friends place to do the assignment together. It would have been a combination of chatter and work. Which was exactly what was going on online during this assignment too.
My husband and I discussed this computer being in our daughters room, neither of us was very happy about the position we were in. To follow the advice of the experts we needed to remove her and the laptop from her room to the dining room table, have no television, and keep two boys settled and quiet until 8:30pm every night. She would also spend many nights studying and working on assignments until very late and that would mean one of us should stay up and supervise what she was doing. Technically we should have been able to see her screen and be able to see her working. Imagine for a moment changing your evenings in your household to this extent. Possible but not desirable.
Our daughter has always had our trust, she is mature, smart, sensible and reliable, she understands that she has our trust and she realizes that if anything happens to change that then the activities she does and the freedom she enjoys will stop. She also gets good grades at school and in the end what we decided to do in our household is to allow our daughter to have the laptop in her room. We reiterated all the safety information we could and let her know that if her grades dropped or anything happened that was inappropriate then she would be removed to the kitchen table.
Two years later she has continued to get mostly A’s and she continues to have our trust too. With so many things in our children’s lives once they are out of our sight and supervision we leave them open to all the same risks we worry about online so I believe that it is important to teach your children appropriate strategies and actions, keep an open line of commutation and talk regularly with your children about what is happening in their lives and what’s happening with their friendships. I have also been the instigator of dinners and contact lists with her friends mum’s, we are becoming good friends and we are able to share information with each other and we have all seen first hand what a great group of girls they are. We are all very lucky.
I trust my daughter to go to the movies and spend time with her friends, knowing that her behaviour will be appropriate and responsible. I know she is not going to engage in behaviour that she knows I won’t approve of because she also knows that those things are either stupid, risky or unsafe. When out with her friends, just like when using her laptop in her room, she has the potential to be approached by a stranger, or someone who is not who they say they are. What I have to do is trust her to respond appropriately in either case. As hard as it is to let them go we cannot keep then locked in the house all their lives. And I know that this will probably be a controversial opinion but we allow our daughter to use her lap top in her room because we trust her to respond appropriately and know that she will speak to us if she ever has a problem online.
What strategies do you use in your household to monitor your children’s use of technology?
I would love to hear what you do!
Stay safe, be happy,