Parenting is a complicated business and when you add two or more parents into the equation, bringing with them the way they were parented, it can be a bit like a gladiator’s arena! Then we add in a young person desperate for a device, or more time on their device, or gunning for a particular app or game and parents who can’t see eye-to-eye can be the starting point of a sure family meltdown to follow. 

It doesn’t have to be this way though, as with some careful planning and calm conversations most times a suitable middle ground can be reached.

What doesn’t work

This is a lot like relationship counselling I’ve discovered, in thinking through what really doesn’t work when trying to work out a complex issue between two (or more) people when the discussion is centred on the privileges and responsibilities of a child. What never works is rigidity and an inability to listen to someone else’s point of view. Giving a child access to a data-enabled device is a BIG decision and not one to be undertaken with the starting position of, “But all their friends have got one.” If you’re the parent with the stronger viewpoint (going in either direction), the suggestion is to do your research before you start the conversation as the expert.

What also doesn’t work is what I like to term as ‘drive-by-shooting’. This is a big issue. If you’re looking to give your child a smartphone with access to the world at the end of their fingertips, it needs significant consideration and conversation. Bringing it up in the car with moments to discuss it before heading in different directions, or in any similar situation where you think you’ll be interrupted or unable to focus on each other’s viewpoints is not the right time for the discussion. 

It’s also not the right time to do it when you know that someone from your opinion camp will be present. Loading up the discussion with a support crew does the importance of the agreement between parents no favours. If you’ve got one of your own parents backing you – or a friend, they have no place in the decision making between parents for their child.

Finally, bringing in big emotional guilt or blame statements is just a non-starter. “You’re a pushover!” or, “You’re always the fun wrecker!” simply get in the way of a useful conversation. A list of useful and not useful statements follows – so, try to steer away from those that don’t lead to a resolution that protects your child.

What works

Start with giving this discussion a lot of consideration, research and pick the right time to have it. It’s a huge responsibility for both parent and child – having access to a data-enabled device. In fact, that little device can be the cause of the greatest hurt and harm to a child when things go wrong, so take your time in talking, listening and decision making.

Being prepared to compromise is essential. If your partner is absolutely opposed and you’re stuck between that and a child who’s made a good case for trying out a device, think about creative ways you could build your case. For example, if you’re pro and your partner is against it, maybe agree to trialling your child on one of your devices with just one app available at very limited times for a month to see if that will work. Slowing everything down and not backing someone into a corner means that compromises can be made and generally, everyone is happy…ish.

Talking from fact and not from, “My friend said…” is essential. This is a huge decision so go off and do some reading. Familiarise yourself with the statistics on children and the social and emotional impact of device use. Find out about parent controls and how you can manage and filter their access to content. Read up on how other parents are policing devices and supervising screen time. Set aside any peer pressure you might be feeling and deeply connect with your parenting values and what’s right for your child.

Useful Not useful
How are we going to both be responsible for her online time?  Well, it’s your problem then, I’m having no part of it.
Let’s reach a compromise. You’re so uptight – just like your mother!
We could take responsibility for different aspects of device use and management. He’s got you wrapped around his little finger – no wonder you gave in.
Let’s both research some parent controls we like. I know what’s best for him so you’re just going to have to trust me. 
I understand how worried you are. When it all goes wrong, it’s your fault.

Some final thoughts

Giving your child a device is a BIG decision – perhaps one of the biggest you’ll make. If I had a dollar for every parent who’s said to me that they wished they’d – a. Delayed giving a smartphone, b. Took more time researching parenting controls or c. Not been influenced by the choices other families were making, I’d be somewhere in the Bahamas on a yacht. 

Also, if you’re tempted to print this blog and slap it in front of your partner, “I told you so…” style tonight, I’d encourage you to re-read what doesn’t work. Try and use this as a starting point for a constructive conversation about your child, being willing to give a little to get a little. Do your research and plan the time for the conversation when nothing else is time urgent or pressing.

DiGii Social helps children and their families to learn the skills of being safe, civil and savvy online in their formative pre-teen years. It uses exceptional technology to provide children with a safe sandbox environment to do their messy learning in, gently guided by our virtual teacher. If you’d like to find out more about getting DiGii Social into your school, contact us HERE.