Controlling kids’ internet use

By tcmama

I realized tonight I should be monitoring what my kids are doing on their iPads. They are in second and third grades. Is there a way to monitor what websites they visit? Is there a way to block/restrict web access? What limits do you put on your kids? I am very lazy in some ways in regards to parenting, so I know that I have a blind spot in monitoring web activity

 

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125 thoughts on “Controlling kids’ internet use

  1. Is there a way to monitor what websites they visit? Is there a way to block/restrict web access?

    Launch the Settings app from the Home screen.
    Tap General.
    Tap Restrictions.
    Tap Enable Restrictions. …
    Type a 4-digit password that your children won’t be able to guess.
    Type your password again to confirm it.
    Tap on Websites under Allowed Content .
    Tap on Limit Adult Content.

  2. We’ve been very lax with monitoring our kids’ internet use. And very lax with screen time in general. Probably not the best parenting.

  3. Ditto DD. When they were young, DH set up four different users on our computer, with four different passwords, and limited the websites that were accessible from the kids’ pages. But for at least the past 5 years, the computer has consistently been left logged in to DH’s account, so so much for that. ;-)

  4. What Rhett said. Also, once you put those restrictions in place, they can no longer erase their history. About once/week, less often as they got holder, I would do a quick review of their viewing history. And I would do it in front of them. Knowing that I would see what they were looking at seemed to be a pretty big disincentive to look at anything they’d have to talk over with me. :)

  5. If your kids have iPads or iPhones, the recent system update rolled out “Screen Time”. This allows parents that manage their kids accounts via family sharing to monitor and set controls on games, social networking, entertainment (YouTube) apps. You can also use it for yourself! It’s new so we’re still testing it out but so far I like it.

    There’s also a new Downtime Feature that blocks notices and alerts during certain hours, which I like.

    There was also an app specific limit (I forget what it was called) but it was clunky and difficult to use.

  6. Last night I discovered that my 4th grader can email and IM with her friends via her chromebook. This includes friends she has at other schools in the district. We were hanging out with her friends parents and laughing over the funny stuff they were emailing about. DH added her school issued gmail account to his so he can monitor her emails.

    We also have the password set for adult content on Netflix when we discovered her watching a video on Hitler and the concentration camps. She already knew about them, but we didn’t think the graphic photos were age appropriate.

  7. @DD – We have been lax too. When he was younger, he wasn’t really allowed to use his iPad on his own (e.g., in another room), but we’ve relaxed that quite a bit.

    I did the “limit adult content” thing, but I don’t know that it always works. He also can’t make purchases from his iPad. I scan his history periodically – particularly on You Tube. And often he is watching videos right next to us – I worry more about how annoying they are than how appropriate they are.

    Electronics do get plugged in/turned off at bedtime & are not accessible until after school the next day (or until 7am for weekends). We had a situation where he was getting up at like 5:30am to watch videos on Saturday & we had to put the kibosh on that because he was tired & cranky. Without the lure of the iPad, he would easily fall back asleep until 7.

    We don’t have any screen time limits. Weekday screen time is limited by school, aftercare, homework, family dinner, activities, etc. Weekends, we all prefer to relax when we have time outside of activities, chores and other obligations. I do feel strongly about setting an example – no electronics at the table includes adults, for example. When we do something as a family, DH & I try not to be in our phones either. When we go on dates, we do not bring our phones out unless it is to look something up that is part of conversation or to make sure that there isn’t a message from the babysitter.

  8. We also have the password set for adult content on Netflix when we discovered her watching a video on Hitler and the concentration camps.

  9. “And I would do it in front of them. Knowing that I would see what they were looking at seemed to be a pretty big disincentive to look at anything they’d have to talk over with me. :)”

    Oh, I did that too! He still seems to think that I look more often than I actually do. I found it somewhat effective. He will come to me & tell me that he clicked on something by accident. The main culprit was that he was not allowed to watch Grand Theft Auto videos. That has really passed. I have gotten more lax on language. He said he just ignores the bad words like he does when I am driving. (you win, kid) Also, he’s now in 5th grade, so as long as he is not saying these words at inappropriate times, there is only so much you can do.

    He is completely uninterested in social media. That seems to be a big middle school battle ground with the girls more than the boys.

  10. We have Google Home. You can disconnect their devices from the internet entirely with the wifi controls, so we have them locked down except for 7-8 pm. This means they watch more TV than play on devices, which I prefer bc then you can see what they’re watching.

    For a while #1 was watching weird videos on youtube – can’t even remember what they were but they had strange voices on them, etc., and #2 was watching terrible youtube videos called “10 ways to tell if your girlfriend’s cheating on you” (and this was at age 7?) so that’s when we put the restrictions into effect. Ivy, we also had to stop #2 from playing GTA because he was busting out with inappropriate violence toward his siblings.

  11. We let the kids watch Archer when they were in middle school. So that’s our level of permissiveness.

  12. I’m so honored Rhett. My first Golden Totebag! I’d like to thank my DD for always striving for historical information, and of course the Totebag population for giving me guidance. Thank you all!

  13. We have talked a lot about the pros and cons of internet/social media/texting-sexting etc, but have never been huge monitors of what they are doing. Before middle school they were limited to the desk top PCs in their rooms and they really didn’t know much about the internet, so they focused on the games on their machines. They started out with things like Reader Rabbit.

    Middle school became the game changer as they were starting to use ipads and computers in the classroom. And, many assignments started needing research, needed to be typed, a powerpoint created, etc. By DD#2’s 7th grade year, they were required and that same year DD#1 started high school and was required to bring a laptop every day. DD#2 asked for a laptop when she started high school, but then sophomore year they issued all the kids chrome books. At first she wanted to stick with the laptop, but has since switched to the chrome book for several reasons.

    This leads into, once they need their device for their school work and they have the heavy “totebag” kid workload, restricting the amount of time becomes much harder. My kids new way before I did about finding videos on how to solve math problems as well as they could stream tv shows.

  14. Lemon – I’m glad you caught it in time. First it’s history documentaries and before you know it they’re watching Ted Talks and Kumon math videos. And we all know where that leads.

  15. “And very lax with screen time in general. Probably not the best parenting.”

    Me too! The TV is always on. We use it as a tool to get the boys to learn taking-turns and sharing. And DS1 has a kids Kindle. I like it because I don’t have to monitor heavily. The times he’s had our ipad though, he goes to netflix and just flicks around. Somehow he started the first episode of Orange is the New Black. We shut that down quickly. But we watch what he’s doing at all times.

    I fear for my future with screen time and TV and everything.

  16. I’ve been trying the screen time monitor on the new iOS update. I like it so far. It keeps me honest and I think I can use it on our ipad as well when DS uses that (kindle doesn’t work without wifi for favorite apps).

  17. Rhode – I watched Carol (with Cate Blanchett) the other night on Netflix and now some of the “videos recommended for you” have made me blush. I will definitely be paying more attention to our Netflix accounts.

  18. We control what the computers in the house can access by setting our router to use OpenDNS – that lets us put a lot of control on the kinds of websites that can be hit. The only problem is that sometimes it is too aggressive – it was disallowing Food & Wine magazine for a while. The phones in our house are all Androids, and the parental controls are not as good as with Apple. But my phone service is through Verizon so I use their SmartFamily app and have DD’s phone set up so that sites like WattPad and Discord are blocked, her data service goes off at 9pm, and most importantly, she can’t use the Google store. That is critical because otherwise they install fake apps that look innocuous but let them hide stuff. It also keeps her from installing a VPN to get around everything. It is a bit of a pain because if she wants something, I have to unlock the Google Store, install the app, and then get rid of it again.

  19. I also know all the email passwords. Middle kid has set up “alternate” accounts but he doesn’t understand that Chrome will save all the passwords, so I can get into those too. Honestly, though, it isn’t something I do because I doubt that looking at his porn or whatever is going to be too exciting. If I thought there was a problem, I would check, though.

  20. Finally, the Verizon app also sends me a report of text messages and phone calls, along with the number, every week. I can associate names with the numbers using the phone contacts, so I can see pretty much who she is chatting with. Again, it isn’t something I really spend time on, but because she was having problems with that older boy who was hitting on her a year ago, I have his number flagged, I haven’t seen anything from him in a while, happily. The volume of text messages that go in and out of her phone, though, is amazing! How does she have time for anything else?

  21. We’re not strict about screen time or web sites. It’s too late in our case, but I would have restricted the number of hours in middle school if I had to do it again. She sometimes is watching something on her phone, playing a game on kindle, and doing something in her laptop.

    It did pay off on a bio test yesterday because she said she knew the answer to a question from watching Greys Anatomy so many times. Totally inappropriate content when she started the series. It makes a little more sense now, but she was too young when she first started to watch on Netflix.

    We didn’t restrict much when she was 0 to 8 because it wasn’t a big part of her life until around the age of 8 or 9. DD has a bunch of friends in our neighborhood that she used to play with when she was younger. They spent a lot of time outside or just playing in their houses. Kids didn’t have cell phones in elementary school when she was younger, and now I see kids with cell phones at much younger ages. We selected her preschool because there weren’t ANY electronic devices. It looked like a nursery school from my childhood.

    We do continue to coach about proper behavior and respect on electronics. This includes group texts, postings on social media, and when to put away the phone.

  22. My kids don’t have the itunes passwords, so I don’t think they can download anything. I look at the Netflix activity every few weeks to see what they are watching. DS (4th grade) watches tons of You Tube on the ipad, but he isn’t allowed to use headphones. I walk by from time to time to listen/see what he is watching. We don’t limit much, but this will be more of a concern with DS as he gets older as he would be the one to end up in my basement as an adult playing video games. On weekend afternoons, I kick them off devices and tell them to go outside. I appreciate your honesty on this topic because if you read “the internet” about screen time, I feel like I’m the only one who lets my kids watch screens.

    DD is in middle school. She recently learned that I read her texts before (not often, but I check in every once in a while). She was mad, but I explained to her that she has access to anyone through her phone and that is scary as a parent. What do parents of older kids do with this type of communication.

  23. Yeah, our kids don’t have the Apple ID passwords and such, so they have to ask me or DH if they want to download something.

    Probably the worst thing I’ve done is set him up with a Playstation account that is linked to my CC, because he can just buy and download whatever he wants. It does get reported to me, and so far he has followed the rule of asking me or dad before buying something, and I take the money out of his account. Still, the boy who used to spend no money whatsoever has spent $120 on a new game and subscription and skins and such just in the past week! I think it’s just a little too easy, and since he doesn’t “feel” the money going out, it’s easy to ignore.

  24. On screen time allowed, I have the feeling we’re among the most restrictive here.

    General rule is no screen time during the school week, although watching UNC basketball is exempted from that rule :) Truth be told, I would never have been that strict except our oldest really gave us a hard time about walking away from the computer, limiting to just one show, etc. Zero ability to moderate. It was much easier for everyone, including him, to have a hard and fast rule.

    Weekends they can get on in the mornings and the late afternoon/evenings, but we expect them to be off for the main part of the day.

    As my oldest has gotten older and more able to moderate, we’ve eased up. My youngest has always been on of those kids who could take it or leave it, so much easier to be a little more laid back with him.

  25. Our only screen time limit really is no after-school screens until the 10,000 steps have been achieved. But that was established as a condition for me forking over for a fitbit, not because I was trying to limit screen time per se. ;-)

  26. I appreciate your honesty on this topic because if you read “the internet” about screen time, I feel like I’m the only one who lets my kids watch screens.

    People lie or they have a nanny. Alternatively, people who have a zero screen time rule brag about it constantly but people who plop their kids in front of Paw Patrol so they can talk a shower don’t feel the need to bring it up at every opportunity. In short zero screen time parents are like vegans or cross fit fanatics – they just won’t shut up about it.

  27. “Alternatively, people who have a zero screen time rule brag about it constantly but people who plop their kids in front of Paw Patrol so they can talk a shower don’t feel the need to bring it up at every opportunity. In short zero screen time parents are like vegans or cross fit fanatics – they just won’t shut up about it.”

    LOL. I think you might be right about that.

    The one kid in DS’s class who is severely restricted that I know of is only severely restricted when Mom is home. Dad does not enforce Mom’s rules. I don’t know how that plays out in their house, but the kid is not shy about telling everyone the game.

  28. I do think it can be a minefield helping kids navigate social media, etiquette (which is different with peers than adults), and all those things. We just aren’t there yet. I’m also not entirely convinced that it is all as evil as the media and the school assemblies would have you believe, as compared to navigating middle school/high school in the dark ages. More in your face, but there are also good things about it.

  29. “In short zero screen time parents are like vegans or cross fit fanatics – they just won’t shut up about it.”

    LOL. First rule of crossfit: always talk about crossfit. ;-)

  30. Everyone at my house loves their screens including both sets of grandparents. So, we had to go to everything in moderation, make sure you do your schoolwork, get enough sleep and excercise. Our rules tend to be more broad based and the intent is to help them self regulate when they are out on their own (nice excuse for lax parenting).

  31. I’m pretty lax as well. My DD mostly seems to just play Minecraft or with her Nintendo. I don’t let her watch any thing in her room yet. The screens have to stay in the living room. Sometimes she watches Youtube. So far, I’ve only told her that she knows what is appropriate and what isn’t. She seems to gravitate towards those videos where teenage boys are doing those stupid challenges or pranking someone.

  32. Tangent: first admission in, with a 3/4 tuition merit award (before applying for other scholarships). It’s her safety, but DD is still over the moon (at least judging by the all-caps texts I am getting). :-)

  33. Probably the worst thing I’ve done is set him up with a Playstation account that is linked to my CC, because he can just buy and download whatever he wants. It does get reported to me, and so far he has followed the rule of asking me or dad before buying something, and I take the money out of his account. Still, the boy who used to spend no money whatsoever has spent $120 on a new game and subscription and skins and such just in the past week! I think it’s just a little too easy, and since he doesn’t “feel” the money going out, it’s easy to ignore.

    I always had the kids pay me cash for buying stuff online. Now they both have their own debit cards so they use those.

    DS told me once that a friend of his bragged about using his dad’s CC to buy a bunch of XBox stuff. DS said he knew if he ever tried that I’d catch him right away. The “worst” thing they ever do is occasionally they’ll rent a movie on Amazon when they are off of school, and I’m fine with that.

  34. Congrats, LfB’s daughter!

    My boys get 30 min/day of screen time if they do their chores/HW/piano practice and haven’t lost it for fighting. It winds up being closer to 40 min, after they get to a “save” point on Minecraft. They choose videos or Minecraft, mostly. We need to change the router settings because they were watching youtube videos on their Kindles. (Reading books from the library or playing word games or Khan Academy are unlimited screen time activities.) The screen time winds up being ~1-2 hr most days because they use their time to play Minecraft together. We also watch some college football and movies as a family, which don’t count against screen time limits.

    DD has gotten more screen time than I prefer lately due to my SE Asia conference calls that overlap with Lego Robotics practice. (DH is the coach.) She either watches Netflix or hangs out with the Lego robotics team like a feral child when we’re both busy.

    I don’t like having background noise from radio or TV. Our house has enough background noise without electronics supplying it.

  35. As AustinMom said, once they get to middle school and up they have much of their schoolwork online via Google Classroom or other sites, so setting the internet to shut off during certain hours, taking devices away, etc., would prevent them from getting homework done. And that’s just the in-classroom classes — if they’re doing any kind of eschool classes that is completely online. It’s not like colleges are less reliant on online homework, classrooms, administrative stuff.

    So in many ways, despite all the downsides, it’s still better to let them learn how to resist the siren call of the fun sites in middle and high school so they don’t have to deal with that particular fresh temptation in college. And obviously if red flags go up in terms of grades, constant sleepiness, etc., you look more closely at how they’re spending their time online and perhaps do revert to enforcing a device-free bedtime for a while notwithstanding complaints that it’ll be your fault if they fail [class] because you prevented them from doing [assignment].

    Learning how to live with this constant temptation is a great challenge for our kids’ generation, that we didn’t have to face.

  36. “you look more closely at how they’re spending their time online”

    Yes, that is what I like about Apple’s “Screen Time”. You can see how much time is spent and monitor it.

    “She was mad, but I explained to her that she has access to anyone through her phone and that is scary as a parent. What do parents of older kids do with this type of communication.”

    Nap – Nice to see you posting. I had a similar conversation with my son about Fortnite. It’s like when you tell your kids to “drive safe”. It’s not that you don’t trust them (necessarily) but that you don’t trust other drivers so you want your kid to be cautious. I trust my son (so far) online, I just don’t trust others who are interacting with him online.

  37. This:

    “We do continue to coach about proper behavior and respect on electronics. This includes group texts, postings on social media, and when to put away the phone.”

    I think it is almost impossible to stay ahead of what is out there that could possibly get them in trouble, especially as they get older. We have always tried to focus on how to make good decisions. Whether electronics are are involved or not. At one point we had a things to consider list with things like:
    1. Would I be embarrassed if someone showed what I did/said to everyone I know – grandparents, parents, friends, pastor, teachers, etc.
    2. Is what I was doing/saying accurate, honest, and kind?
    3. Could what I was doing/saying be taken out of context and put me in a position to defend my integrity?

  38. Learning how to live with this constant temptation is a great challenge for our kids’ generation, that we didn’t have to face.

    There was a funny line on Big Bang Theory the other night where Sheldon said, “I’d rather wait in line without my phone.”

  39. And, to add to HM’s comments, even things like Girl Scouts and other extracurriculars use things like Google Forms, Signup Genius, GroupMe, etc. to communicate, but also for them to collaborate and/or turn things in. For example, my DDs both participated starting in 6th grade with a program to mentor younger girls. At first the “commitment” form was paper as was the log of hours spent that you mailed in. Then it moved to scanning and emailing. Now the “commitment” form is a Google Form and they are experimenting with an online log.

    This, to me, reinforces the need to teach middle school on up kids how to use and manage vs. just restricting it.

  40. Congrats LfB!!! This is awesome news!

    I think I shared here the drama I had with DS1’s neonatologist. We were there for a check up (3yo) and DS1 was totally interested in her computer. He thought it was a touch screen and tried to use it like an ipad (it wasn’t touch screen). She proceeded to scold me about screen time and how damaging that is to him. She told me he’d learn to read very late and would be further behind. I got pissed quick. I wrote 6 words (including his name and his brother’s name) on a piece of paper. I shoved it in my son’s face in between him ping ponging off the walls. He rattled them off with no issue. I looked at her dead in the eye and say “ya, reading isn’t our problem.”

    While I know she’s quoting these larger studies, many preschool classrooms use screens to help the kids learn. I figure he better be comfortable with it now rather than behind later. And it’s not like we don’t work on fine motor skills with writing (he prefers his magnadoodle to pen and paper), and read paper books to him. But again, we aren’t the typical parent the neonatologist lectures to.

  41. Austin, I agree that it is impossible to stay ahead of the “next thing”. We are trying to emphasize basic manners/respect etc that we want her to use in any situation. We don’t want her to think that it is ok to write or say things online that she wouldn’t say in person. We rarely look at her phone because we are trying to give her some space, but the group texts are disgusting.

  42. Laura, that’s awesome! And merit aid means more money for you to spend next time you want to upgrade your car. ;)

  43. Lauren — If you are OK sharing, I’m wondering what kinds of things are being said on those group chats. Are they mocking or disparaging other kids who aren’t in their group? Or is it more posturing and bragging about themselves? Or something else entirely?

  44. She proceeded to scold me about screen time and how damaging that is to him. She told me he’d learn to read very late and would be further behind.

    Your comment made me looking into these studies. From the first few I read the claim seems to be, “Kids who read a lot have a better attention span than kids who play video games a lot.” The idea that the length of one’s attention span dictates whether you enjoy reading or video games more, is left unexplored.

  45. “The idea that the length of one’s attention span dictates whether you enjoy reading or video games more, is left unexplored.”

    I could read it as looking at the attention span of an unpreferred activity. So you enjoy an activity and can remain engaged. But what happens when you have to do an unpreferred activity? Does enjoyment of video games over reading books change that level of engagement during the unpreferred activity? I know for DS1 that’s a struggle. He’s going to be the kid who flies through his homework so he can do whatever he wants (screen time, a certain toy, etc.).

  46. Laura – congratulations to your DD and to you as well!

    Sometime around 3rd grade, we switched to a system of DS needing to earn his screen time by doing homework, etc. We didn’t do this with his older sister – but DS really needed the incentive of a reward to get him through his homework. And if he had a lot homework such that he didn’t have time for screen time that night, knowing he was earning time he could use the next day helped alleviate some meltdowns.

    In theory, now that DS is still in 8th grade, he still earns screen time but we don’t really track it. As long as he’s earning good grades and isn’t spending all his free time glued to devices, we let it go. I will say I’ve noticed a big increase in his texting and Instagram this year. I guess it’s just in contrast to his previous usage of close to zero. I actually love seeing his Instagram stories – little windows into what he’s excited about. Today it was Chere Linn (singer – I’d never heard of her) had released a new song.

    We are quite firm that phones, tablets etc. have to be downstairs at bedtime (i.e. the kids can’t keep them in their rooms when they’re sleeping). We’d always had this rule but became much stricter about enforcing it when we realized DD was staying up until 3 am watching Grey’s Anatomy. And then was super tired and cranky all the time.

  47. Lauren, I am also curious. #1 has a diva boy in her friend group who says some really unkind things IRL and I shudder to think of what will happen once they are all online.

  48. Cubs Fan, how old is your DD? My 8-yo *loves* those pranks videos and thinks that his younger sister will also love it when he teases her or pulls a prank. Not!

  49. NoB, I use curse words all of the time. I do this when I am alone in my car or when I am pissed at something I see on TV etc. I know that DD hears bad language so that is not the issue. These group texts are full of swear words and ugly language. They claim that this is how they speak to each other, but it is nasty.

    Many conversations take place on Snapchat so I never get to see those unless it something that DD really wants me to see and then it is in real time. Some of these conversations do discuss parties or plans that exclude certain kids, but it is not bullying at this age.

    One of her friends (a guy) sent his “girlfriend” a text that was beyond nasty about his English teacher. He didn’t receive a grade that he wanted and just went off on this teacher using nasty language. His girlfriend took a picture of the text and posted it on VSCO. I hope this kid never wants to be a judge because the this text is now available for anyone to read and it is so mean.

  50. He’s going to be the kid who flies through his homework so he can do whatever he wants (screen time, a certain toy, etc.).

    That’s pretty much baked in. I believe a Golden Totebag was awarded to someone who said, “I always loved doing homework.” That’s something your born with.

  51. Cubs Fan, how old is your DD? My 8-yo *loves* those pranks videos and thinks that his younger sister will also love it when he teases her or pulls a prank. Not!

    She is 9. I guess that’s the age lol.

  52. DS (10) loves those kinds of videos too. He is big into Team Edge (they have many spin off channels) and Dude Perfect, along with some of the Minecraft channels on You Tube. And then anything that takes a bunch of clips of Star Wars and stitches them together. And – to earn his Golden Totebag – also Numberphile and some math channels. And Vox. Every once in awhile he will spout off some fact at the dinner table, and it almost always comes from a Vox “explainer” video. I have not cut him off from that, even though some of them are a little over his head, and I am waiting for the day when he asks me about abortion or something.

  53. Rhode – my DS adores video games and doesn’t like reading. I tried a lot of things to make him read but nothing worked. He gets good enough grades. My DH is like this and so is my MIL. They prefer audio/visual to text.
    I suggest using Audible to sound out a book he is reading when your DS gets older. My DS loves speech to text as well.
    It’s very un Totebaggy not to like reading but one has to deal with and work with innate traits.

  54. Had a question for you experienced parents here.

    My 1st grader roughy home a note from his teacher saying that she heard him tell another boy from his class “not cool”.
    I was quite surprised, both about the note and the “not cool” part. I did not think that calling someone not cool merits a note to parents. Secondly, I was surprised that my kid would call someone not cool.
    Granted my kid is snarky and sarcastic for a 6 yr old, but he is also very tuned into what is nice thing to say and what can be hurtful. So I asked him about the episode and he laughed and said that it was just fun talk between friends and the other kid shared something that he claimed to be cool and my kid ended up telling him that he was not cool. The other kid did not like to be called uncool but said that and then they proceeded to play on. I did talk to my kid if he meant to say that the “thing” was not cool rather than his friend (which is what he wanted to say) about using correct words.
    But I am still struggling with how to address the issue with his teacher. Should I write back or ignore the note? I feel like I don’t want her to label DS should explain to her that it was just talk between kids and I had a chat with my kid about word usage and feelings and that he definitely did not intend to bully anyone. And anyone who actually spends time with DS will agree that he is just not that kind of kid. Or is it better to not write back and just move on?

  55. Congrats to LfB and her DD!!

    Was it a school with rolling admissions? When did she submit her app?

  56. Sometime poster, it’s probably a little late in the day for responses, but people will probably get back to you tomorrow. I would absolutely write a note of some kind, just to show that “Yeah, I read your note and I am acknowledging your comments.” I suppose you could say something along the lines of “thanks for bringing this to my attention, DS and I discussed word usage and feelings and he understands how the other boy feels.”

  57. Sometime poster, I would write back with a brief comment that you talked to your son about word usage and feelings and he did not intend to bully anyone, along with another sentence or two about your other perceptions. I have an ongoing relationship with my school’s principal, thanks to Twin2, and most teachers want to know that a parent is “on the other end of the line” to partner with. If the teacher seems to be overly focused on minutiae, you can ignore it if a similar thing happens again. A benefit of this relationship to Twin2 is that when Twin2 slugged someone on the playground, the principal took the time to understand that The Sluggee had made fun of Twin2 more than once and Twin2 had politely asked him to stop.

    Just my two cents.

  58. Sometime, IMO part of your dilemma is achieving a balance between maintaining good relations with the teacher, and not encouraging her.

    I suggest a response along the lines RMS’ second suggestion.

  59. “thanks for bringing this to my attention, DS and I discussed word usage and feelings and he understands how the other boy feels.”

    lol that is awesome.

  60. As a long time lurker (from TOS) I am jumping in here today because of comments earlier this week about wanting more participation from the lurkers.

    I am probably over the top on this, but we are super strict on screen time/video games for our 9 yo DD. She gets basically zero screen time as a baseline. Exceptions are: when she is sick or during plane rides. We do watch movies together as a family—–especially around the holidays.

    At 4th grade her school required all kids to have an internet connected surface tablet. I really think this is unnecessary at 4th grade.

    But since it was required we went along……Then, we removed all preloaded games and apps. We have Circle on our router at home that limits her computer from being able to access anything—-this is a problem when she does actually have to do research for something as then we have to let her use one of ours. Essentially her computer at home is just a glorified word processor.

    At school they have firewalls, etc., but not nearly as restrictive as we are at home.

    We do this for many reasons (including a huge fear of what she will come across inadvertently—porn, slender man videos, horror movies, etc)—-but mostly we do this because I am a luddite (my husband would have far fewer restrictions than I) and feel that childhood is better spent playing outdoors, using her imagination, reading, creating, exploring, etc. She has a full schedule with school, homework, activities during the week and weekends are usually busy with events/activities/playdates/etc, so the truth is there is not a lot of time for screens…..not that she doesn’t ask!

    This will get more difficult to maintain/enforce as she gets older, but I feel there is plenty of time in life to get acquainted with the morass of information, entertainment, education & trash that is the internet.

    I was surprised so many of you are less worried about this than I am. Perhaps I need to re-think my stance. Am I too strict? And if so, what are the potential downsides of that?

  61. Irish Poet, nice to see you jump in. My thinking is that it’s better for them to learn about things at home where we can provide guidance. IME, when they are (almost) completely denied something at home, when they finally get to do it they will go overboard. I also think that when you are extremely strict about something, they become more likely to do sneak around and lie about things. When you restrict the internet, they won’t tell you about what they saw online at friend’s house. Or when you restrict junk food, they won’t tell you about the 10 cookies they ate. JMO.

    I mentioned up thread that we let our kids watch Archer in middle school. I don’t know how familiar you are with the show, it is a cartoon with a lot of nudity and sex, not to mention violence. They were a bit young to watch it, but we watched it with them, and they asked a lot of questions about things, and we were able to explain things to them appropriately. To us, that was much better than seeing it or similar things on their own or with friends and getting incorrect impressions about sex.

    There are other things I’d like them to experience at home in a safe environment, like drinking and getting drunk. I think that is much preferable to them doing it elsewhere for the first time. There would be no worries about anyone driving or doing anything stupid, and with a daughter there is always the fear of assault. I’m not sure how we’ll work it out, though.

    Anyway, that’s my long-winded way of saying I think it’s better to let them have screen time in moderation while you can control it than making it a forbidden fruit.

  62. Irish Poet,

    My feeling is that kids need to learn to swim in the waters they’ve been born into — which for their generation means having some level of literacy in memes, YouTube, all that stuff that someday will appear on lists of “You Know You’re a 2010s Kid If,” so they have that shared ground on which to connect with their peers. And while that can and I think should be balanced with giving them exposure to the things that don’t come by default, like running around outdoors and exploring the neighborhood, I don’t see it as a kindness to cut kids entirely off from such a big part of the culture they live in. You want them to know the joy of building dams in mudpuddles and making up clubs with friends, sure, but you don’t want to deny them the joy of being able to understand and join in when their classmates are talking about some stupid Minecraft video by a Famous YouTuber or are posting #PSATMemes in a few years.

    BTW, I’m having fun deciding which Irish Poet you are. Probably not Brendan Behan, I’m thinking. And maybe not Kavanagh. Could be Yeats.

  63. I have great sympathy for Irish Poet’s technology position, because I struggled with and obsessed over that line myself. How much technology is enough? How much is too much? If I let my 6th grader play minecraft, will he never want to go kayaking with us again? Which article I just read is correct? My kids’ ages straddled the line of internet saturation – the iphone came out when DS1 was late in high school, and that was about the time social media become a thing, in the quaint, limited way it started out, (hi, facebook that was basically a list of stuff you liked, where are the ads?), and youngest DS grew up in the world of 6 year olds with smartphones, minecraft, texting, snapchat and memes. Left to my own devices, I would have been Irish Poet, but DH and I didn’t agree on this issue at all, and had to work out a compromise. Our practice was to keep the computer in the family room, no TV in kids’ rooms, monitor, and talk endlessly about it all. But once DS3 was given a chromebook by his high school and all of his assignments moved to various online collaborative platforms, we just hoped for the best and pretty much got it. I will say that my friends who severely limited tech or who used tech for draconian punishment (high school kid who used to lose his phone for a semester for a bad grade) tended to have terrible outcomes. No idea whether those kids would have turned out better if the parents had let them be more engaged in their culture, because you can’t go back and live a different life, but the correlation was strong with boys we know. Find a balance that works for you and your family. Your daughter is young, and no one is going to convince me that all of the internet world needs to be available to a 9 year old. But there does come a time when they need to be able to engage in the world that we live in, and especially when the school is using collaborative platforms as part of their educational process, you may have to loosen the grip a bit.

  64. July – I suggested a topic today. If you could include it in next week’s lineup that would be great.

  65. School issued computers for both my kids have become an integral part of their education. There are so many school related things that they do through there that I would have never thought about. One of my DD’s teachers is a meteorologist so he showed them some very interesting websites that could at when we had the hurricanes. Content is not all bad. One suggestion for Irish Poet is to start with different types of interesting and perhaps educational websites.

  66. Irish Poet, among our peer group I am definitely on the stricter side of screen time use and limits, but I think I would encourage you to allow a little more. I agree with the reasons above. Also, because it is so much easier to impose rules on a 9 year old than a 14 year old. Now is the time to allow screen/internet access and also to establish good behaviors around that access. I think if in middle school you are allowing the access for the first time and also imposing rules on it at the same time, it’s going to blow up in your face.

    For example, at 9 years old, it’s easier to say, you can access youtube videos, but I’ll frequently take a quick look at what you’re watching, and a 9 year old accepts it. If you say that for the first time at 13, it has more potential to be a power struggle.

  67. Sometimes Poster – what if you just sent an email back that said, “thanks for your note, I appreciate you watching out for how the kids treat each other.”

    I think the note was a little ridiculous but at the same time can appreciate her effort…

    I once got a call from school requesting our 5 or 6 year old stop calling another kid “Duke boy.” (or rather, “Dook boy”)

  68. Irish Poet,
    I agree with Demver Dad. Our kids are much older and we did not have to deal with these issues as much. The advent of the smartphone and tablets has made it impossible to shelter kids from all that is harmful or potentially so online. Even if your DD does not have one, at least one of her peers does, and then all bets are off. You can certainly continue to limit screen time at home, but just be aware that part of your job as a parent is to help your DD to develop the skills needed to navigate the digital world in which she lives. You and your DH are the best teachers in that regard.

  69. “But I am still struggling with how to address the issue with his teacher.”

    Frankly, I am stunned that the teacher wrote a note home over the phrase “not cool.” In our area, that term means “I don’t like what you just did” — it strikes me as a pretty gentle way to tell someone you disapprove. Like X says something hurtful about a third party, and Y says “dude, not cool.” It is always, always, about the behavior, and is never actually saying “you as a person are not cool.” I can’t believe a kid gets called out for voicing disapproval over something a friend did.

    Of course, I’ve just been through this with DD getting in trouble for allegedly calling a friend a bitch when she really was talking about unexpectedly bitchy behavior, so take that with a grain of salt. ;-)

  70. Louise — Will do!

    LFB — How wonderful for you DD!

    “I think the note was a little ridiculous but at the same time can appreciate her effort…”

    I guess I mostly agree with this but I’d be concerned that “not cool” is considered note-worthy. What’s next and will my kid get in trouble again? I’d be tempted to write back that her note was uncool.

  71. On the uncool comment, it did make me wonder how old the teacher is, and whether she understood the common usage of the phrase.
    I am the veteran of MANY notes home, thanks to DS2. Starting with preschool, with a classic – “DS2 is trying very hard not to have guns and aliens in the creative play area.” I like the responses above, but also agree that you don’t want to encourage nit picking.

  72. LFB, that is great news!! It has been fun to watch her grow academically. Remember when you were wondering if Project Lead the Way would be too much for her?

  73. I once got a call from school requesting our 5 or 6 year old stop calling another kid “Duke boy.” (or rather, “Dook boy”)

    Lark – in some circles that may be seen as a grave insult especially if your parents went to said “Dook” college ;-).

  74. Am I too strict? And if so, what are the potential downsides of that?

    You hint that you’d ease up as she gets older so that’s fine. If she was the only 16 year old without a phone then that would be a problem. And I wouldn’t want her to go from no screens to her first day as a college freshman suddenly having access to all this forbidden fruit.

  75. Irish Poet – I agree with Lark that at age 9, it is easier to have limits. Our 8yo now waits eagerly for the 7 pm hour so he can use internet on his kindle!

    HFN, what a classic!!! FWIW, I remember having aliens in my creative play area in 1st grade. ;)

  76. “And I wouldn’t want her to go from no screens to her first day as a college freshman suddenly having access to all this forbidden fruit.”
    Bingo. +1

  77. @HFN: yes! I’m very much in “who are you and what have you done with my daughter?” mode. This year, in addition to her all-AP-and-engineering schedule (and AP Bio is actually making her work), she has class at the CC Monday night, engineering club T and Th, speech and debate W with tournaments every few Saturdays (she is competing in two categories), teen class Th night, multivariable calc – and, oh, yeah, college applications. And so far, she is maintaining straight As and keeping on top of things and even maintaining a good frame of mind – and even doing previously-unheard-of things like asking for help and talking to her teachers! It’s early days yet, of course, but it’s sort of ridiculously awesome to watch her and think, you know, I may actually have raised an adult who will be capable of managing classes and jobs and independent life in general – which, given where she started and how much she struggled to manage herself, was not exactly a given. 😉

    (And, yeah, totally bragging here, so thanks for bearing with me. I just, really, if you guys had known her at 4, or 7, or 12 — and all the times I said “if only she’d use her powers for good” . . . .)

  78. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful responses. To Rhett’s point, I always expected as she got older we would loosen the reigns, but you all raise some interesting arguments about starting that process sooner. I really appreciate the input and insight.

    And for, Honolulumother……..very astute of you to rule out Behan for a luddite. It’s Yeats……but it could have been Heaney. :-)

  79. Along the same lines of internet usage, the same can be said for phone and credit cards. A child psychologist that has worked with DD has told us that we should be introducing these items to her prior to middle school. By the time they are in middle school they will no longer listen to you and become very secretive, thus never giving you the chance to show them how to properly use them.

  80. @Irish Poet — personally, I’d have chosen Heaney. ;-) But more to your point, I began my parenting career as a total Luddite, very much “send them outside to play instead of letting them stare at screens.” But DH has always been a tech guy, so he was doing things like buying toddler computer programs to help them put letters together into words and stuff. We talked about it a bunch, and I finally realized that they are growing up in a very different world from me and will have a completely different relationship with tech. To me, the computer just allows me to do the same things I have always done, just more efficiently. I write emails instead of letters; I draft documents in Word instead of by hand; I research online instead of going to the library; etc. So I look at tech as an add-on, and I evaluate everything from the lens of “does it make my life better.”

    But to my kids, tech just is — it’s an integral part of their existence, like pen and paper and hard-copy books were for me. My kids’ social lives now all revolve around Snapchat, text chains, and the Playstation; heck, most of DS’s “playdates” with his friends are now being online at the same time on video games. And it is also becoming an integral part of school; they both have assigned devices now and various homework portals and communicate with their teachers and classmates entirely electronically. And then it is also playtime — DS has been in a robotics club since 3rd or 4th grade, where he is learning not just about building robots, but about how to do basic programming to make them do things.

    So I have come around to realizing that my kids are going to interact with computers and the internet and all that kind of tech in a gazillion ways, whether I like it or not, and almost inevitably in ways I don’t see coming. So if I don’t give them enough time and access to all those different things, I will actually be holding them back from learning to be comfortable with all the stuff they will need to know for school and their future social lives.

    I do agree that balance and some versions of age-appropriate controls are necessary. And I do still get a little spike of happy when DS decides to step away from the PS4 to go to the library or go ride bikes with his friends. But our house now operates on DH’s view of tech, not mine.

  81. This was my post, but I didn’t have time to respond yesterday and have only skimmed comments. Thanks everyone for posting! I’ll have to read more closely, but you are making me feel better about not being super strict about screen time and providing some good common sense supervision ideas.

    I laugh at all the things I said I’d never do as a parent. Screen time was one of the big ones and limited technology. Oh, how I laugh at my former self. I also laugh about thinking how I’d get my kids to bathe even once a week. My standards have fallen dramatically. About the only rule I have left is that they need to get along with each other. When they start fighting, I go from 0 to batsh!t insane crazy in 0.2 seconds.

    I really appreciate all the advice and insight everyone here provides.

  82. I agree that “Not Cool” doesn’t really warrant a teacher email, but I would probably respond with one of the comments here. “Hey thanks for letting me know, we discussed it at home.”

    I agree that it is much easier to gradually loosen restrictions rather than have an almost complete ban when it comes to almost anything with kids.

    You know, when it comes down to it – technology can be great both for work and entertainment, and we are all trying to find the right balance. I guess part of the reason that I don’t worry too much about “screen time” per se is that I think we, as a family, still have a pretty good balance overall between screens, outdoor time, active time, and analog (e.g., reading books, playing card games) as part of our daily life. All three of us naturally get restless after too much screen time, and we also have enough activities & obligations to stay active. We also all actually enjoy reading, playing cards/board games, going to sporting events and cultural activities, etc. It really sucks when we are more house bound because of the weather or something like that.

  83. “the same can be said for phone and credit cards. A child psychologist that has worked with DD has told us that we should be introducing these items to her prior to middle school.”

    I tried several times, but could not find any financial institution that would even issue a credit card to a 17yo kid; I don’t see how you’d get one for a kid prior to middle school.

  84. Finn, it is more like a debit card, but the idea of spend wisely with money that you can’t actually see and hold in your hands. FamZoo has a decent program for middle school kids. If you teach them to spend what they have then getting a credit card with oodles of money available when they are 17 won’t be tempting.

    The other day I was getting cash out of the ATM and my 6 yr old said something along the line of the ATM takes money out of your account, but if you use your card you don’t have any money taken out. It is funny to hear how they think money works. Obviously by middle school they have a better concept of money but the “out of sight, out of mind” is still going strong.

  85. Hey LfB, I haven’t been on this blog today – congrats to your DD for getting her first acceptance. It was around this time last year that my DS got his first acceptance, and it made him feel much more relaxed. He ended up at that school too! I am glad your DD has something in the bag.

  86. I tried several times, but could not find any financial institution that would even issue a credit card to a 17yo kid; I don’t see how you’d get one for a kid prior to middle school.

    I got DS a credit card on our account when he got his license at 16. Or were you trying to get him one completely on his own?

  87. DD, I asked all the issuers of my and DW’s cards if they would issue DS a card on our accounts, and were consistently told not until he’s 18. I checked with some other card issuers and got the same response.

  88. Lemon, if we’re just talking about introducing our kids to the concepts of credit card and CC use, our kids were introduced to that quite young, seeing DW and me use our cards regularly, and from time to time we tried to explain how that worked.

    We also introduced them to the concept of bank accounts by putting their allowances into their bank accounts, after first starting them off with cash for a few years.

  89. Finn, Amex recently lowers the age from 15 to 13. We got DD an Amex card when she went on a long trip with her camp. She was 13.

    We just got her a Visa card from Bank America because several places don’t take AmEx. It’s linked to our credit card account. We don’t have bank accounts with B of A. The bank and Amex never said a word about her age and the cards came immediately.

  90. Lauren, your experience suggests that for DD, I should just look my credit cards’ websites for the pages for requesting additional cards, and request one for her from a card that doesn’t ask her age or birthdate. Or just be honest and see if they issue a card anyway.

    I recently took a look at one of DS’ credit reports. When he turned 18, we got him a card on one of DS’ accounts, and when we closed that account, got him a card on one of my accouts. His report shows the full credit history of both of those accounts.

    This suggests that for both kids, I should request additional cards from an account that I’ve had for a long time and have a perfect payment record. That would give them a credit history stretching back long before they were born.

  91. Finn, we use Capital One. I just applied online for the extra card with his birthdate and they sent it no problem.

  92. Yes. I just asked DH about info that we had to give for cards. We gave social security and real bday.

    DD said that about 1/2 of the kids on the trip had credit cards. They’re all aged 13 to 15. The other 1/2 used a debit card. Several of her friends had a credit or debit card from Chase.

  93. Lauren, DD, your experiences suggest my mistake was in asking if they would issue a card to a kid below 18, as opposed to just requesting a card for him.

    I’ll know better for DD, although we’re a bit more leery about getting a card for her on one of our accounts.

  94. It is usually possible to put a limit on a card for the additional cardholder. Also, you can get immediate notifications of any charges via text. You will eventually have to teach her about money and how credit cards work. I am assuming that she will take a trip, go to college etc etc, and it is probably wise to let her have a credit card in case of emergencies if she is not going to be on the same island as you.

  95. I agree with Lauren. And per the previous discussion, I think it’s better to have screw up when it’s not going to be a huge deal than wait until she gets her own card and goes crazy with it.

  96. Not all card companies allow different limits for different cardholders; the cards we’ve gotten for DS on our accounts don’t.

    DW’s and my cards have credit limits upwards of $25k (we’ve never requested increases to our limits, but the CC companies keep upping them). If none of our cards allows for a lower limit, we may end up opening another account for that reason.

  97. I think (think) you can ask the issuer to give a different number and limit to a linked card.

    A few of my friends with younger kids in middle school will use Apple Pay to send money to their kids when they need something in a store. For example, the middle school kids will walk into town after school on a Friday. Many kids don’t carry a wallet or cash. They need money for CVS, Starbucks etc. The parent will send the money via Apple Pay and the child can pay at the register as long as the store accepts Apple Pay.

  98. I think (think) you can ask the issuer to give a different number and limit to a linked card.

    Captial One does it by default.

    Finn, do you really think she might charge thousands of dollars if you give her a card? I’m not understanding what your concern is. If you get her a card and she makes excessive charges with it, then you hold her accountable.

  99. I saw that about Amazon. I had been hoping for Newark but the reality of how it might affect housing prices concerned me because I have a young relative who works nearby.

    I’ve never had a problem adding a teenage authorized user to my credit cards. IIRC I had the option to impose limits on charges.

  100. I doubt that Amazon will pick northern NJ right now because it is obvious that the roads and rails are a disaster right now. I don’t think it will be fixed in the near future as it will take a new tunnel and years of rehiring/rebuilding for NJT so I just don’t see how they can select northern NJ when there are so many other viable options in other parts of the country.

  101. I was really rooting for Newark since I have followed that city for many years after working there for 3 years. And of course I have a kid in school there now. You might think the mass transit is bad, but it is far, far, far better than most places in the country. Northern Virginia and the DC Metro area has had many transit issues.
    I can see why they would want to be near the halls of power though.

  102. Northern NJ would be well on its way to a new tunnel if it hadn’t been for that a$$ of a governor. Oops, politics…

  103. I know we discussed our families and Thanksgiving, but dealing with this family stuff is the pits.

    It just ruins everything and creates so much tension. I have the only child with older parent guilt and I want to make sure DD knows her cousins. I don’t want to assume that she will get married and have her own family. I actually love my younger cousins and I want her to get to know them. Dealing with their moms is a nightmare. It makes me so angry, tense and sad. I wish I could just say to eff off to them and stay home, but I don’t want to do that to DD. I’m so pissed.

  104. Lauren – I encourage you to persist. I was the only child with older mom, but my mom was the odd duck in her large somewhat oppressive family, moved away, and did not make the effort. I really never got to know my same aged first cousins (very few, most were much older) in any meaningful way. I feel the lack. One of my daughters maintains friendships with her father’s far flung somewhat younger cousins, more so than with their kids. The actual first cousins are enough younger to be a different generation.

  105. We have tried so hard to get our kids connected with their cousins in CT, but there is no cooperation or interest on their side. The side with the cousins that are my kids age have their own Thanksgiving, and do it at a time we can’t make. Then, they go off and visit other parts of their families. It is the same at Easter. My kids are left with the elderly branch of the family and never see their cousins.
    I have invited the one of the cousin families to come visit us many times. They have similar interests and always say they would love to bring their kids to the Natural History museum but are too daunted by logistics. Fine, I say, you can park in our driveway and we can all take the train in together or pile into our minivan and we can bring you guys with us. But they never go for it.

  106. Lauren, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

    Our family saying is “nobody’s judging you.”

  107. Thank you. I was able to make other plans with the cousins because most of them will still be in town for the weekend after Thanksgiving. It is not a great solution, but at lest we will still see some of the family.

  108. Lauren, I’m so sorry you have to deal with family holiday drama. Sounds like you have put together a solution. I will just add that it is a commonly held fallacy that there is something magical about being with “family” on a holiday. Especially when “dealing with their moms is a nightmare. It makes me so angry, tense and sad.” It is entirely possible that your DD could grow up to consider time with her extended family not to be joyful and close, but to be tense and passive aggressive and uncomfortable. Since it sounds like you are not going to be spending this Thanksgiving with family, I would encourage you to celebrate your nuclear family and the relationships your DD does have. We have to play the hand we are dealt, and trying to fit your actual family into the “hallmark family” box” wastes time and energy, IMHO.

  109. I think it’s harder when family lives close enough that you feel like you ‘should’ see them on every holiday. I have friends at work whose families all live in MA and they drive themselves nuts going to Grandma A, Dad B, and Mom C (or whatever) every single holiday. We made it easier on ourselves by not leaving our house by default. (I think after #2 was a baby?) This year we are traveling to my in-laws since my MIL is sick.

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