[Edited in November 2018 to reflect minor changes in our rules]
I’ve decided to share our house’s rules about iPad use.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent time revising our household’s rules around using iPad. I’ve shared this a few times with family friends and colleagues who’ve found it hard to manage screens in their homes.
What leads me to share this publicly is the concerned articles or blog posts discussing how iPads are too hard to control or manage in a house. The most recent one was by Dave Delong titled If iPads were meant for kids and then referenced by Ross Kimes on his microblog.
Often these come about because people hope for (or expect) a magical silver bullet that will control access and anti-social or dangerous behaviours. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to use technology to solve social problems, but expecting it to be foolproof is unrealistic. What is realistic is to understand that kids dedicate substantial time to circumvent barriers that are put ahead of them.
A better use of your finite parental resources might be to share what your expectations are, and as much as possible, explaining why the rules exist. If you can succeed at this, you’re turning your response to a child’s protests about iPad use from ‘because I said so’ into a ‘why do you think this rule exists?’ and getting the right answer. That’s not to say technology can’t help. In my house, I have configured OpenDNS to lower the risk of unwanted websites reaching my kids’ eyes. I’ve also recently setup a Pi-hole to blacklist advertising. (Guess what? Advertisers are happy to pitch adult themed banners in areas frequented by kids). I see these technological attempts as an extra layer of insurance though; not the solution.
Much like any reasonable process, investing time and effort at the beginning leads to a far easier path down the track.
With that said, below are our house’s iPad (and computer) rules. They might be perfect for you, but they also may not. Good news – I’m not going to dictate how you run your life. If any/all of the below help you, then I’ll be glad that they provided some assistance. If you feel I’m missing something, feel free to get in touch. This document has gone through several revisions already and is a best effort representation of what works for me today.
- After every 30 minutes of continuous use, you need to take a fifteen minute break. It is your responsibility to set a timer and track this. If you’re asked how much time is left and you don’t have a timer set, you will need to take a break immediately.For movies and tv shows you may watch one episode/film before taking a break. Note that screen time includes watching other’s screens. A screen break means no screens in sight.
- ‘Anytime’ activities are ones that teach you something (coding, movie making, writing, games that teach you maths, spelling, etc). ‘Sometimes’ activities include most games, and watching videos. It’s expected that you have a healthy mix of both and not just sometimes games all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. If in doubt about the activity, ask.
- No screens are to be used/watched before school. On non-school days, no screens before 8am, and no computer/iPad for the hour leading up to bedtime. TV will be decided based on behaviour. This is so that you can go to sleep more easily when bedtime does come.
- Nagging will not be accepted and will result in reduced use time. This includes arguing about when to stop playing, or if you’re told ‘No’ to new game requests.
- When being spoken to, the device is to be put down. If someone is talking to you, it’s polite to make eye contact and listen. If someone asks you something, you must pause what you are doing and respond. You are never allowed to ignore someone.
- Devices are to be put away when visitors are arriving or leaving, as it is good manners to greet or farewell people.
- If you are unsure about anything when using a device, you must ask a grown-up for help. This includes when using the Internet to visit web pages, or if a game asks you a question that you don’t understand.
- iPad is to only be used in family spaces, not by yourself in a bedroom, unless an adult has said it’s okay.
- When not in use, iPad is to be kept on a designated bench with charger. It is your responsibility to plug iPad in to make sure it has enough battery. You are not to use iPad when it is being charged.
- iPad must be kept in its protective case. If anything happens to your iPad, we do not promise to replace it. It is not our responsibility to keep it safe or intact, it is yours. You may be expected to pay for repairs depending on the circumstances.
- If there is an app, movie, game or book you want, just ask and we’ll consider whether you can have it. You must ask a grownup before making a request through the App Store. Requesting through the App Store before checking with an adult will mean immediate and potentially future refusal.
- Different houses have different rules. These are the rules for this house.