What’s the most commonly broken technology-related rule in your house? Which rule do you struggle most to enforce?
Noting the difficulty of enforcing rules about phone and computer usage for parents, a group of researchers surveyed 249 families across the country about their family rules. They came up with both insight and advice in talking to your kids about tech use and setting your house rules.
One major finding was that some kinds of rules were harder to enforce than others. Almost all family tech rules could be grouped into two categories: context rules and activity rules. As the names suggest, context rules deal with the where, when, and how of the kids’ tech use, and activity rules deal with the content and activity involved. For example, a context rule could be “No phones at the dinner table.” An activity rule, on the other hand, would be something like “Don’t use SnapChat.” Researchers found that context rules were much harder to enforce than activity rules.
Of course, context rules are difficult for people of all ages and in all areas of life. They are also necessary to function in society; social etiquette is almost entirely made up of context rules. So, how can parents make tech-related context rules easier to follow and easier to enforce?
Interestingly enough, researchers found that many kids participating in the study recognized that certain tech-related context rules were necessary, and that the kids expressed a desire to improve. Because many kids do recognize the importance of some context rules, they may be more willing to cooperate, especially if they feel included in the rule-making. In fact, the researchers found that the more the kids felt they had input in the rule-making process, the more likely they were to perceive the rule as fair and the harder the kids tried to follow it. A democratic approach (with the appropriate parental checks and balances, of course) may be the key to success here.
The parent’s example is also extremely important. Research has already indicated that parental media habits predict kids’ media habits. Furthermore, many tech-related context rules are wise regardless of age (i.e. Refraining from texting while driving), so parents will benefit both themselves and their children by following certain context rules. If there are certain context rules parents choose not to follow, parents should be prepared to give appropriate explanations.
Many parents can also overlook the help that technology can offer in enforcing context rules. The study noted that most parental control products focus on activity restraints; however, many products do offer some context restraints. Clean Router allows parents to turn off the internet at any time and set individual schedules for each device in the home. If parents want to have a rule against phone use at the dinner table, adjusting their Clean Router to shut off the internet at 6pm every night is a great way to easily enforce that rule. Don’t underestimate what the right parental controls can do for your family!
Family tech rules can be hard to make wisely and enforce effectively, but it is possible, and it is worth it! To read more about creating a family internet safety plan, click here.
If you would like to read the original study, click here!