It was when I bought and downloaded an app for my ten month old baby that I first realised that we were firmly in the parents who embrace tech camp. Unlike many people who had a strict ‘no tech’ rule for their babies (those poor mites who were being deprived of Mr Tumble!) we – rightly or wrongly – introduced our little one to CBeebies on the telly and a cutesy Fisher Price app on my phone, before she even turned one.
But then, considering Mr P and I have always been quite into tech ourselves – from buying cutting edge gaming equipment to getting the latest smart phones and getting excited over buying a smart TV – it’s no surprise that we would embrace it as parents too.
And of course, with that decision comes huge responsibility. We’re the first generation of parents whose children are surrounded by tech in such a big way (the worst my parents had to worry about was me spending too long playing Tetris). So rather than blindly embracing it, I think it’s important to have boundaries and rules in place.
Alba have asked me to share our family tech rules, as well as trying out a few of their products as a family. If, like me, you’re happy for your kids to watch TV and use a tablet, Alba products are really worth checking out. Exclusive to Argos, it’s a very affordable range (TVs start at £99.90, tablets start at £49.99 and SIM-free phones start at £12.95) and they’ve been made with first-time tech users in mind. In fact, the first TV I ever had in my bedroom, age 13, was an Alba (back in the day when we only had four TV channels….)
So first up, our rules:
- Get some balance. While we don’t have a set time that we allow our seven-year-old to watch TV or use her tablet, we do monitor it and if we think she’s been glued to tech too long, we’ll ask her to do something else like read or play, or we’ll head outdoors.
- Always know what your child is watching and playing. We play every game before deciding whether the seven-year-old can have it on her tablet, and we keep an eye on all of the TV shows and YouTube videos she’s watching to make sure they’re suitable. Which is made easier because she only uses tech in the kitchen or living room…
- No screens in the kiddo’s bedroom. This might change when she’s older but right now, we don’t allow her to watch TV or user her tablet in her bedroom.
- Only age-appropriate games are allowed. We’ve almost come a cropper with this one, because there are quite a few games that seem suitable for the seven-year-old but on closer inspection, we realise they have a chat facility where strangers can play with you and message you.
- Use parental controls. As well as using safer apps like YouTube Kids, which has filtered content, we only allow the seven-year-old access to certain apps, which means she can’t surf the web on her tablet or message anyone. Also, within certain TV apps, she can only watch U-rated content unless we type in a password.
- Set a good example. There’s no point in telling your child that they should have a balanced approach to tech if you’re then glued to your phone or tablet. Sure, we need to use them for organising LIFE STUFF, and we shouldn’t feel bad about that, but popping your phone away from time to time shows that it doesn’t have to be a permanently attached to your hand. Which means…
- No screens during family meals. This is a really popular rule, amongst families, and it’s one that’s really good to implement early. Meals can be a time where you catch up on the day and talk to each other, rather than a time for being interrupted by notifications or deadlines.
- Make tech a reward. We used to fall into the trap of taking away our daughter’s tablet as a punishment, but now we try to use it as a reward – so we offer an extra 10 minutes of tablet time if she tidies her bedroom. Some of my friends have a tech reward chart for their kids, where they earn their tablet time every day, which I really like (but haven’t been organised to sort out yet).
- No password access. At this stage, we don’t give the seven-year-old any password access, and if she needs a password (to watch a PG film, on her tablet for example), then we type it in for her.
- No mobile phone/social media until the appropriate age. She keeps asking me when she’ll be old enough for a mobile phone, and I tell her that when she’s walking to and from school on her own, we’ll probably give her a basic phone with no bells and whistles (and no social media) to allow her to phone us if she needs to. But right now, she’s too young for a phone.
So what did we think of the Alba products we were sent to check out?
We’ve used this every day, without fail, since it arrived. Coming with a handy silicone case, we can allow the seven-year-old to use it without worrying about her damaging it too much. The large screen is great for her watching TV and films on it, and it comes with the TeenLimit app, which has parental controls like a timer which shuts the tablet off at a set time, geo-location and app blocking facilities. This will come in really handy when we’re on a long car journey, to stop the cries of “I’m bored!”
This is the perfect size for a teenager’s bedroom but since we don’t have one of those yet, this bad boy has gone in our kitchen. We’re about to transform the back of our kitchen into a sofa/TV area but until then, the TV’s home is on my kitchen worktop, meaning we can watch breakfast telly in the morning and I’ve even watched some Gilmore Girls whilst ironing. Living the dream! It has a built-in DVD player which the seven-year-old loves as she has a bunch of kids’ movies on DVD, which she can now watch with ease (we don’t have a DVD player in the living room anymore.)
I can’t believe how reasonably priced this Android smartphone is! It has all the functionality you’d need in a phone – and it would be ideal for a teenager, as you can use the TeenLimit app, with its geo-location, timer and app blocker to keep them safe. One rather nifty feature is its ability to take two SIM cards, so you could have your work and personal numbers on one phone. It has a 8mp rear camera and a 5mp front camera and has the same silicone covers that the tablet comes with.
So we were really impressed with the Alba products we’ve been trying out – they genuinely seem like a great option for buying kids and teens tech, when you don’t want to spend a lot and you want safety features too.
Do you have any other rules when it comes to managing tech use in your family?
This post was commissioned by Alba and as always, all views are my own. For details of how I work with brands, see my Work With Me page.