Coronavirus has turned the world on its head. As a school that strives to minimize the use of technology, today we find our students using it extensively for their learning. We want to encourage our community to be intentional about when and how technology will be leveraged in the days ahead.
In my previous blog post, I shared thoughts on technology, noting that it isn’t inherently “bad,” but that it has its appropriate uses at appropriate ages and with proper restrictions. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, we invite you to do so here. That blog entry offers a theological framework for these suggestions. Today, we focus upon the practical. We offer simple ways that you can protect your children while they are using technology to learn at home.
Set limits.Screens stimulate the developing brain in a way that few other things do. In fact, by releasing dopamine, the Internet stimulates the very parts of the brain that react to street drugs. Technology can become addictive. As a school, we have supplied your children with daily work that requires them to be on a computer. In some cases, it may even take several hours to complete it. If you agree with your child in advance on a time limit, then there’s less room for argument and negotiation - especially if you enforce the limits consistently. Consider printing content when you can, limiting non-academic screen time while your children are doing their studies online for the coming weeks, and setting a predetermined limit within which your children must complete their studies. We have structured the remote learning program so that your child is not penalized for completing today’s assignment tomorrow. Kids often lean into as much screen time as you’ll allow. So, set a limit and help them learn to budget it. And, since you can always increase the limit if needed, consider starting conservatively and increasing the amount of time as needed.
Keep it public.Generally speaking, devices
don’t belong in bedrooms. Consider requiring your entire household (perhaps mom and dad included) to keep devices in public areas. And, don’t be fooled: Children can, have, and will access inappropriate content while you are sitting in the same room with them. Require screens to be outward-facing at all times.
Talk to your children.According to some sources, approximately 9 out of 10 boys will regularly view pornography by the time they graduate high school. And, while the statistic has decreased slightly with the waning use of public chat rooms, it has been said that 1 in 6 girls will be propositioned while they are online. In my experience, this statistic is lower in schools like Dominion, but the difference is not as dramatic as you may think. Start the conversations while your children are in middle school. Pray for your children to get caught. Check in regularly on their self-awareness (i.e. Does your child have a propensity to hyperfocus or become addicted to something? Pay attention.). Consider accountability mechanisms, peer influences, and strategies for supervising or checking in on your child’s online behavior. Keep the communication flowing.
Use filters & monitors.Filters are an important component to any person’s Internet use. How many of us have been presented with an unexpected page when we click a link or mis-type our search parameters? Sometimes, a child’s first exposure to pornography (and human sexuality) is through an accidental click. Though imperfect, filters help reduce the likelihood of this happening. Where filters help you avoid inappropriate content, monitoring services actually report to parents when a child has visited an inappropriate site. Two platforms we recommend are Disney Circle (which filters, helps monitor, and places prescribed screen time limits on devices - not just the Internet) and Covenant Eyes (which allows you to monitor every site your child visits, alerting you when one is concerning).
Focus on the war so that you don’t have to fight the battles.Too often, we focus upon the day-in-day-out management of technology in our homes rather than the precursory parameters that could have prevented the battles in the first place. If it’s part of your family culture and an expectation that you drop your devices at the door, then will your son or daughter be less likely to use it at the dinner table? If you don’t buy the XBox in the first place, do you have to fight every day over playing time? The strain placed on your relationship by way of daily battles is often greater than the one-time strain that comes with an intentional and front-loaded decision. Maybe you’ve already made some mistakes (I have!), but consider what decisions lie ahead that could create bells that can’t easily be unrung. And, don’t be afraid to reverse bad decisions. You might even consider striking a deal or two to gain their buy in. (I’m talking with my kids now about exchanging an old gaming console for a trampoline.)
Focus on the positive and take risks.If your kids can experience things that are fun, leisurely, enjoyable, true, good, beautiful, exciting, thrilling, and engaging in real life, then they’ll have less of an appetite for the virtual world. Consider ways you can take risks. Consider letting your older child bungee jump or skydive! Ok, maybe you don’t go that far, but I’m only half kidding. As a generation of parents, we have become so risk averse that our children don’t know how to engage with the real world. We feel more comfortable if they’re sitting in our homes on their telephones than we are with sending them in a car to socialize with a friend. Obviously, the latter isn’t practical while school is in shutdown and we’re in social isolation, but what does it look like to take risks? Does your child enjoy biking? Once he reaches a certain age, turn him loose to bike by himself. Is your child better off playing in the back yard or at a neighbor’s home with only loose supervision or sitting in the house all day? Consider the costs of being too risk averse.
Technology is not evil, but it can be leveraged for evil or good. As we journey through the coming weeks, we encourage you to be intentional. Don’t just let the use of technology “happen,” even if it’s related to school. Think about the objectives you desire from this season of online learning and then consider how you will reach them.
Our campus is temporarily closed, but our students and faculty are continuing to interact with our classical curriculum through distance learning. Our Admissions team welcomes the opportunity to answer your questions and introduce you to all that Dominion has to offer. Join a virtual tour to learn more, or click here to have someone contact you.