Back to school, back to boundaries?

Families rethink their tech habits with children back in school

At Digital Awareness UK, we’ve been working with Vodafone to deliver Digital Parenting webinars throughout this pandemic. Understandably, we have been inundated with stories of how tech boundaries have gone out of the window as many of us have scrambled to get on top of new working and schooling arrangements. In this latest Lockdown Learnings blog, we explore what going back to school and things starting to look more normal, means for your family’s relaxed tech boundaries? Do we go back to what we had in place before? Or have we learned something from lockdown that means we’ll change the tech boundaries we had in place forever?

Google did some research last year which found that 52% of parents felt overwhelmed about how to manage the role of technology in their children’s lives during this pandemic and 51% didn’t know what kind of tech boundaries to set for their children. Parenting comes with its challenges at the best of times, but we’ve truly been put to the test this year. And in our opinion, if during a pandemic, Dad needs to break the rules by answering the odd email during dinner time or our kids want to scroll through TikTok for a bit of light entertainment after 8pm, let’s not beat ourselves up about it!

Something we’re really interested to understand is if and how tech boundaries will change as we emerge from lockdown. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been asking parents this question a lot. Here are a couple of stories they’ve shared:

Zara (mum of 10 and 12-year olds)
Zara had strict tech rules in place in her house, but all that evaporated into thin air during lockdown as she worked long hours from home. She scrapped all restrictions and her kids had free reign to use tech as they wanted and to her absolute shock, the kids adjusted well and made good choices. They learnt how to self-regulate and use their tech pretty responsibly. Zara said moving forwards she’s going to have more of a hands-off approach but keep a close eye on things.

Ishan (dad of 9 and 14-year olds)
Ishan said he’s always been pretty relaxed with tech boundaries in his house, but during lockdown, screen time got out of hand so they started introducing habits like ‘no tech in bedrooms’. He said that after seeing how much these boundaries benefitted everyone, he wants to continue with them post-lockdown.

If you’re thinking that this might be a good time for your family to have a bit of a rethink about the tech boundaries you have in place, here are a few questions to consider:

  1. What have you learned? As we saw with Sarah and Ishan, without realising it we’ve had the opportunity to test out what has and hasn’t worked when it comes to setting boundaries during lockdown. On your own or as a family, it might be worth getting together and comparing notes to understand what you’ve all learned as a family.
  2. What should we continue with/change? If you’re a family that enjoyed your daily family tech-free lockdown walk, stick with it! If you felt like your kids weren’t doing those critical things like eating, sleeping, learning, exercising or socialising effectively, perhaps it’s time to make some changes.
  3. How can we set new boundaries? Nothing beats a good old fashioned chit chat with the family about how to thrive when we’re using our tech. So, if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on how to set boundaries together, check out Vodafone’s Digital Family Pledge.

For more information and advice about keeping your kids safe online, take a look at the other article in this series, It’s gone viral! 3 popular apps and websites parents should know about.