Screen Time Solutions: 5 Tips to Help Keep Kids Safe Online and Balance Tech and Learning

Screen Time Solutions: 5 Tips to Help Keep Kids Safe Online and Balance Tech and Learning
Rebekah Peterson

We all want our kids to benefit from technology, not be harmed by it. Minnehaha Academy Technology Coach Tarah Cummings shares her top tips for what you can do as parents to help your children maintain a healthy balance with technology. 

“Technology can be a powerful tool that can help us connect with others, learn about different people's experiences, and experience the world without having to physically leave a space,” explained Ms. Cummings.

“In bringing technology to kids we need to keep the future in mind. We want to make sure kids have the tools that they need for whatever happens beyond their Minnehaha experience. As they go off to higher education and then the workplace, they will be expected to have a certain digital fluency. Our teachers are giving our students the tools that they need to be successful–with whatever is next.”

1. Set Entertainment Time Limits

Set limits on the time your children can consume digital entertainment. There are fantastic tools available to help you manage your child’s usage and create consistency. Apple’s Screen Time makes it easy to see how and when children are using various Apple features, as well as set limits and block apps on your child’s school iPad (or personal cell phone). Most home WiFi routers also allow time limit configurations for each user profile.

“Our teachers are creating and curating meaningful learning experiences and using technology to help kids deepen learning,” explained Ms Cummings. “And they’re not just using technology for technology's sake. They're really looking at the whole child and what's best for learning. In some cases, they're providing both analog and digital learning options.”

A boy in kindergarten takes a self portrait on his iPad

2. Choose Technology Zones

Keep technology in certain areas of your home only. The best place for children to use tech is in a central location such as your kitchen, family room, or living room. This way, it is easy for you to supervise their tech times. Keeping tech out of bedrooms and private spaces can help keep kids safe, and will give them a healthy sleep environment at night.

3. Set Expectations and Make an Agreement

Have a clear conversation with your kids about your expectations for tech use. Then write up an agreement that makes sense for your family. Include information about when, where, and how often tech can be used in your home. Be clear and communicate your desire to keep your child safe online. Have frequent, open conversations with your children about what they’re exploring and doing during their digital time.  Common Sense Media has a template Family Media Agreement that is a great resource.

“Our technology expectations are a way for our teachers to hold students to high standards while they're online," said Ms Cummings. “We want technology to enhance learning and not as a distractor or disruptor of learning. Pursuing whole and holy living, seeking truth, engaging in deeper learning, showing respect, and connecting with community are key pieces of our technology values.”

4. Use Filtering Products

Take the time to set up content filters so that inappropriate content is not easy for children to access. The iPads that Minnehaha students receive have filtering in place that works at school and home. Our Digital Health and Wellness page has more tips on filters you can use for your family’s other devices.

5. Know How to Share, Who to Friend, and What to Join

Remind your children that they shouldn’t post anything personal online, such as their address, last name, photos of themselves, or their birthdays. If they do post online, a great question to ask is “Would Grandma approve of that (either viewing or sharing)?”

“When considering online friends, a best practice is to only connect online with people you have met in person,” advised Ms Cummings. “And, remember that app age minimums are there for a reason - think twice about letting your children join a social media community if they don’t meet the age minimum, most often at least 13 years old.”

Additional Resources:

A teacher stands at the front of a kindergarten class and teaches about iPads and technology safety

About Tarah Cummings, Technology Coach

Tarah works at Minnehaha Academy as a Technology Coach, supporting teachers, staff, and leadership in leveraging instructional technology to enhance and facilitate student learning. Tarah has taught in preschool to grade 12 schools for more than 20 years. She earned her master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas.

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