Mon. Sep 28th, 2020

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How To Control Your Kids’ Tech Time While Teaching Them New Skills

4 min read

Technology surrounds us. It is no longer a side element it is an integrated part of all our lives. This up and coming generation has never been raised so attached to technology. There have been advances through the generation but not like now. We don’t know the long term effects on the mind of children not using their imagination, regular outside play, high level physical activity and more intellectually stimulating exercises.

Like with all the enjoyments in life everything is fine with moderation. Balance the good and the bad. When it comes to kids this is especially important. Even though I am a tech gee and I built my life around technology, spent thousands of hours behind screens and keyboards (and video games) I didn’t get involved with computers until my pre-teen years. Now I see five year olds with iPhones, their faces glued down, hitting the screen for a virtual food pellet. And for what?

You aren’t going to break away from the technology, it’s their future and most of their careers will depend on their use of it. However, running around swiping to catch virtual creatures or staring at some random people playing video games on YouTube do nothing to advance their skills. Instead, create an incentive program and use technology, apps, services to help them toward their goals.

What I have done is make use of an extra computer, Google Docs, and setup a goal based system where the eight year old can work and record his progress toward leisure tech time.

Here’s how it works.

  • I setup a Google Account for him, under my control, that he can login to.
  • On my account I created a Google Spreadsheet where we track his time on activities. Each activity of work or intellectual time creates time for him to use how ever he wants on technology. Whether that’s watching mindless YouTube videos, video games, movies, etc…
    • The spreadsheet is fully programmed to auto calculate and deduct as we go. Every day he enters his time.
      • The spreadsheet is also locked down to only allow edits on certain columns by him so he doesn’t accidentally delete or add things he’s not supposed to.
    • For Reading books/novels/magazine articles/newspaper (comics don’t count), homework, workbooks or trivia we do, and coding on his Kano he gets 1:1 minutes. For every minute reading, for example, he gets a minute tech time. I chose 1:1 because in the course of the day there isn’t enough physical time to use it all up at once.
    • For doing a chore without being asked he gets 15 minutes earned. Clearing his dishes, cleaning his room, brushing his teeth and other routine chores don’t count. If he sees the garbage needs to be taken out, get the mail or paper off the driveway, vacuum when it needs to be done and he just does it, that counts.

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  • Each day we go and record and a running total is accumulated for his use.
  • With the Binary household rule that no games or videos on school nights, he’s basically stocking up for Fri, Sat and Sunday afternoons.
  • If he runs out, he gets nothing until he stocks up.

kidstechnologyThis approach does several things. First, it creates the urge to earn something. Second, it teaches using a cloud service and spreadsheet work, math, formulas and some basic accounting. Third, it puts control around the leisure use of technology that can easily turn into a long term marathon session. There are times it’s far easier to let them zone out with games for hours on end but not al the time, everyday and gone unchecked.

Like with any system or process, whether it is in the home or office, you need to stick with it. Routine it. Don’t falter and stay true to the purpose and it will pay dividends in the long run.

This may work for some, may not work for others, but it’s an approach that all the parents I shared this with love. Since the feedback has been so positive I figured I’d share it here. I know I have made adjustments and with the new school year starting this week this will be the primary tool to track his responsibilities.

When it comes to parenting there is no right answer, it’s all a guessing game until you find something that works and in this case this works for us.

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