Like so many other parents I know I’ve been pulling my hair out about electronic devices in the home.

Yep, the devices that we bought our little dahlings with our own hard earned cash because we loved the delight on their little dials when they opened the glistening box (actually, I could probably substitute that ‘we’ with an ‘I’) – the same devices that go on to force us to create rules, health boundaries, threats, time-out’s, bribery and all manner of parental maneuvers.

One of my favourite moves I must say are the parents who take away the power lead enforcing the child to sit through the dread of a dwindling power source knowing that a recharge will only be the reward of ‘good’ behaviour.

Like many households these days we have a collection of computers, tv, portable devices.  These devices are often fought over, they contain a range of apps which are downloaded at whim, and I must say they are generally a thorn in my side until that is there’s a prolonged car trip, I can’t stand their fighting any more, or I have some form of deadline – cast me into the crap parenting category if you like but I know I’m not the only one.

And our rules around those devices wax and wane depending on the busyness of the household at any particular time with only a few rules remaining constant – dinner at the table, bedtime, school and sports.

We’ve tried moderation, we’ve tried time outs, we’ve tried confiscation, we’ve tried guilt, reason and fear tactics  But nothing ceases the lure of the need to be connected, to check out the amount of ‘likes’, ‘hits’ and other potential updates.  Quite frankly, I find that lure rather delicious myself.

Online they are connected to friends and potential friends, they learn and in my son’s case he also trades.

The added challenge in our family is that my online business is something my kids have seen emerge from birth so monkey see, monkey do.  My son was trading his drawings online from the age of 12 earning cash for his work from clients all over the world.  Do I want to discourage that entrepreneurial behaviour?  No freakin way.

And therein lies the conundrum…

How do you create reasonable restrictions around online usage – screen time without stifling a whole bunch of other opportunities as they potentially learn about communication, building networks, business and whatever else it is they choose to learn.

OK, I’m not completely blind to the flip side of the maze of potential risks.  But as my son continually reminds me “MUM, not everyone I talk to online is out to get me“.

So a friend’s post about this online dilemma really got me thinking.

In the day and age in which we live where technology is an important skill – and it opens a whole world of opportunity, do I want my child to learn internet usage is a reward for good behaviour and lack of it a punishment for bad behaviour?  Actually, no.

Do I truly believe my child has as much control around his/her internet usage as my dog does in resisting tasty treats that magically appear in her bowl eating until there is no eating left to be done?  Um… no.

Am I going to phone my son an an hourly basis in approx. 4.5yrs time when he leaves home to suggest he gets off the screen?  probably not.

So – why do I choose online usage as my secret parenting weapon?  Hmm, I dunno.

I spoke with husband about it just this morning and we’ve decided to implement the unthinkable, just as a trial for all of the kids currently aged 14, 12 and 9.

Here it is.

We are going to provide them with a range of facts about internet usage.  We are going to acknowledge the broad range of benefits and talk with them about making choices and what they miss out on while online.  They in turn will explain to us what they like about their online worlds and how much time they think they need to dedicate to them.

And then within the only boundaries of bedtime, school time, chores (and they really don’t have a lot of them) and sports we are going to let them self-moderate…

So this time next week I’ll fill you in on the brave new world.

And as I notice what’s happening I’ll be paying particular attention to (a) my own online usage in the home (b) my stress levels – am I more stressed in letting them make their own choices and the implications of that rather than wrestling with them to get off the damn screens and (c) what THEY notice about their online time.

See you on the flip side.

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