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Summary:

Upon receiving the tablet, his first course of action was to install a game. For various reasons, I believe that he has proven himself to be irresponsible with such devices, and it would be detrimental to his development to have it. What should I do?

Full text:

  • Recent positive behavior: Starting to follow his schedule, completing homework on time albeit with constant nagging and frequent yelling.
  • Recent negative behavior: He installed malware on his computer in an attempt to install video games, then denied doing so when confronted. He executed a factory-reset on dad's workplace cellphone, and he changed some obscure language settings on dad's computer. This resulted in data loss, wasted time, and lost productivity.
  • I discussed with him the blunders described above, what went wrong and how to avoid them. Next, I spent some time telling him about being humble and modest, as opposed to gloating. I was satisfied with his reception to this talk and gave him the gift.
  • One minute after receiving the tablet, he naturally (and to my great dismay) went gloating to our dad, who commented in a sarcastic tone: "Yes, give him a tablet because his academics are too good." Hence, a condition was implemented that he is not to install any games on it. The following morning, I found Pokémon Go installed, so the tablet was confiscated.
  • The games that he wants to install seem to employ psychological techniques to produce addiction. These games do not challenge him intellectually and do not require creativity. I've seen him spend hours grinding mindlessly to collect virtual points/rewards, and I know from first hand experience that these types of games have correlated to a flat-line in my own intellectual development.

I'm ashamed to say that I yielded to my emotions in gifting him what he wanted rather than what he needed. He'd done nothing to earn this and has not proven to be capable of using a mobile device responsibly. If not controlled, it will inevitably be detrimental to his development.

I believe that the correct course of action is to ungive this tablet, but that is a can of worms in itself. This will be a lesson for me to remember as this was ultimately my decision and my naive mistake, but right now I'm looking for a solution to this. What should I do?

Update:

I had a discussion with my brother to implement some guidelines, in most part following the example provided by @thisiswhatwedo. The "no games" rule has been removed, replaced by the following:

  • May be used only after all assigned homework/tasks have been completed for the day.

  • May be used for maximum of 1.5 hours in a day, noncumulative.

  • Generally not to be used in public, ultimately at the discretion of adults.

  • Tablet will be stored by an adult when not in use.

  • Must mute speakers or use headphones/earbuds when prompted.

  • Application installation and removal are decided by adults.

  • No food or beverage during use.

  • Hands must be washed prior to use.

We mutually agreed to these rules, and I'm satisfied with this arrangement.

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    Just so I understand right; you are not the parent; you gave a tablet to your little brother. The rule that no games were to be installed was added by the father after the gifting, and the confiscation was done by him as well? – Erik Dec 27 '16 at 10:59
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    Are you his adult older brother? Or are you a child/teen yourself? – A E Dec 27 '16 at 13:03
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    You may want to explain your family dynamic a little bit. On first reading your question, I assumed you were the boy's father and he bragged to your father - his grandfather. After reading comments, this is not the case. Since your family situation does not seem to be "traditional" (admitting bias: I am American and may be ignorant of culture elsewhere. Apologies if this is the case), you will likely get answers that pertain to your situation if you include that info. Many of the current answers will likely also be updated to reflect any additional info you add! – user25872 Dec 27 '16 at 14:20
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    Honestly, this kind of behavior with tech devices is common even among adults. (Just ask any IT support professional.) If the CEO of a company acts this way, why would you expect a child to do better? It's certainly no surprise that a child would have trouble following these rules. – barbecue Dec 27 '16 at 16:17
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    This resulted in data loss, wasted time, and lost productivity. Inner voice, yelling: He's a freakin' 8-years-old!! - Seriously speaking, I was amazed by GameBoy's Pokemon Red at 8. Those things shine in 3D colors nowadays - how would you expect an 8-years-old to not loose his head? – mgarciaisaia Dec 28 '16 at 0:11
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From a more general angle. We allow kids in the family to use tablets, but of course this is under supervision.

  • There is a dedicated docking station where the tablets are.
  • Tablets must be used within the room where the docking station is located.
  • Tablets must be returned to the dock when they are not in use.
  • Exceptions are made, and are considered privileges:
    • Tablets may be removed from their home room with permission.
    • Tablets may go outside for photography and video.
    • Tablets must always be returned promptly, or the privilege will be revoked until trust is restored.
  • Tablet use is generally supervised:
    • Permission must be granted to install any application.
    • Any application may be removed without warning.
    • Food and drink use is limited while on tablets.
    • Hands must be washed prior to using any electronics (the ketchup clause)
    • No horseplay while operating a tablet.
    • Two tablet drops result in tablet time being ended.
  • If a tablet is lost, all responsible parties must actively search for the tablet until it is found.
  • Tablets are mostly communal. They can be shared between anyone. However children will have a slight preference for one usually because it has the apps they are most interested in. It is up to the kids to negotiate how to properly share (adults are more than happy to mediate negotiations of course).
  • Netflix is allowed and encouraged. Everything YouTube Kids should be, Netflix is and so much more.
  • YouTube Kids:
    • Beloved by children, despised by parents. It's supposed to be curated content that is safe for kids but ends up being almost exclusively garbage toy channels.
    • If everyone is on the same page, ban this app. Restricting access has defused so many behavioral issues regarding the purchase of toys, materialism and meltdowns.
    • That said, if you have a large family some adults may not agree so:
    • Limited use of toy channels. If any of the materialism behaviors pop up then toy channels are banned or the app is removed.
    • Close supervision is required, an adult must be able to see or hear the app at any given moment.
    • Kids are encouraged to watch original content videos. Though rare they do exist.
    • Seriously. YouTube Kids is awful.

Concerning damage, it's going to happen.

  • Everyone started with Amazon Fire tablets which will invariably get destroyed--which is okay because they seem to self-destruct on their own anyways.
  • Every tablet has a bulky case on it to protect it.
  • Tablets can never be removed from the case. Once it was established that "okay if I break it, it's' gone forever" we switched over to ipad minis. They're a good balance of price, durability and manageability. Phone sized devices get destroyed ridiculously fast, and the larger full size tablets are too large for children to handle.

As a final parting note, watch out for that burst of energy that comes after extended tablet use. The two most popular times are in the morning and before bed. Plan for play time after morning use, and play time before evening use. Limit bed time use to extremely boring shows.

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    "Phone sized devices get destroyed ridiculously fast" This makes it sound like there was a period of trial and error, which begs the question of how many phone-sized devices were harmed in the making of this answer. – David Starkey Dec 27 '16 at 21:20
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    Once again, I'm not trying to be rude or anything but... Wow... Are these honestly the rules you give to your children? Do they remember these rules? Do they fully understand what they mean? – user25887 Dec 28 '16 at 6:21
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    Unsurprisingly, some don't like this answer because it conflicts with their personal opinions, and that's ok. This answer directly helped me in finding the solution, thus it will be marked as Accepted. – dvtan Dec 28 '16 at 7:59
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    @Mango Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand - and the sooner your kids learn that, the better. You might be surprised at the "understanding gap" between the "they're just kids" approach and the "they're tiny people" approach to working with kids. Kids are smart, have great memory and initiative. You just need to treat them as fellow humans, and be consistent. And patient. – Luaan Dec 28 '16 at 12:50
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    @Mango It's simple: either they learn, or they lose the privilege to use the tablet. This gives them enormous motivation to learn them, and a motivated kid can accomplish a lot. ;) – jpmc26 Dec 29 '16 at 8:53
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Let's recap the question from a more objective viewpoint... as right now the premise for the actions which have been taken seem to be incorrect (at best.)

The boy has been behaving well academically which rightly deserves to be rewarded.

He installed malware on his computer in an attempt to install video games, then denied doing so when confronted.

It is not reasonable to expect an 8-year-old to (a) tell the truth all the time especially if they know they will get into trouble and (b) know that they actually have installed malware or what the consequences of that might be. Plus, this machine was apparently not secured with even the most basic precautions.

He executed a factory-reset on dad's workplace cellphone, and he changed some obscure language settings on dad's computer. This resulted in data loss, wasted time, and lost productivity.

So your dad broke company policy by letting someone access his workplace device who then damaged it, knowingly or not - that isn't misbehaviour by an 8-year-old and lost productivity ought to be the least of your dad's concerns. Data-loss that could have occurred can be a potentially career-ending concern.

Ultimately the boy hasn't misbehaved, other people have taken out their frustrations on him for doing things he shouldn't have been able to do.

You then spoke to the boy and he appeared to understand. Children of that age require repetition at appropriate intervals. He may have listened, reasoned and understood - and then forgotten every word or not considered its relevance later on... ask any teacher and they'll tell you at age 8, even the brightest kids do this a lot.

Your parents now need to develop a realistic, reasonable and responsible attitude to use of the device, as presumably they should (and may have) done for you and your console. The tablet is now a privilege and can be treated as such:-

  • access to wireless can be controlled through the access point/modem
  • physical access to the device can be controlled
  • passwords and remote locks can be configured
  • payment options can (and should) be restricted
  • the charging point should be in a shared part of the house
  • use of the device (added friends etc) should be reviewed and discussions of online safety need to be had and reminded regularly

TL;DR - A child was given a gift that had been deemed appropriate, he was given unreasonable expectations on the basis of age-appropriate behaviour, and was punished for playing with... a toy.

The reaction all round in that situation was neither appropriate nor proportionate. Taking it back permanently is quite mean and a huge overreaction, there is now a need to develop a reasonable strategy for handling use of the device, it should be returned with clear boundaries, just like access to any other privilege and it's their job to do that.

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    Upon the children of that age require repetition at appropriate intervals, actually everybody at any age require repetition at appropriate intervals to remember a thing to the heart. For those who are interested in this, you can google "spaced repetition system" for a solution. – Ooker Dec 27 '16 at 16:59
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    I hadn't thought of it in that way... Thanks for the perspective, this was very valuable. – dvtan Dec 27 '16 at 18:32
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    I'd like to point out some erroneous assumptions for the record. The boy has been behaving well academically The comment from his dad was, as stated, sarcastic. So your dad broke company policy All important data/photos were on the cloud. IT simply re-imaged the device the next day and it was just a matter of logging back in. The boy should not have reset a phone for a game. Ultimately the boy hasn't misbehaved He has in fact misbehaved. But like I said, you've shown me a different perspective where it's not as severe as initially thought. – dvtan Dec 28 '16 at 7:12
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    My PC is set up to require an Administrator password for installs. The account I log into it with is not an administrator account. This is the default setup for PC's (and even workstations back in the 80's). As long as you do that, and do not give the kids the admin password, the damage they (or even you accidentally) can do to it should be kept down significantly. Giving an 8yo admin access to a PC is just asking for trouble. – T.E.D. Dec 28 '16 at 14:31
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    @jpmc26 no its not a serious problem. TL; DR: lying is the default and honesty must be carefully cultivated. Research has actually shown that lying is an important stage in social development: it means you are able to consider the perspective of another enough to tell them what you think they want to hear. Additionally, at that age its a truly exceptional child that can put an abstract principle like honesty ahead of immediate self-interest. You have to instill that sort of thing via repetition (see above). – Jared Smith Dec 29 '16 at 18:49
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What should you do? Nothing, you are not the parent, you just gave a gift that was deemed appropriate by the parents.

You wrote yourself that you didn't have a Nintendo when you were little but all your friends had one. Now imagine him not being able to play "Pokemon GO" while all his friends can play it. I think it is the responsibility of the parents to know when he had enough "Playtime" and restrict the usage of the device. But seriously, he is 8 years old, of course he wants to play and have fun.

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    You wrote yoruself that you didn't have a Nintendo when you were little but all your friends had one. I was unhappy at the time, but in hindsight this was a good thing. Now imagine him not being able to play "pokemon GO" while all his friends can play it. NBD, it won't hurt him. I appreciate your advice, but I don't think it's correct for us. – dvtan Dec 27 '16 at 10:48
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    I don't see from the question that the parents were OK with the gift -or- deemed the gift appropriate. He gave his little brother a tablet, seemingly without their parent/father knowing or really caring... frankly, the reaction of the parent, as portrayed in the question, seems quite weird as well. No idea what kind of family dynamics are going on here. – AnoE Dec 28 '16 at 23:48
  • @AnoE it was in the question before he edited it – Pudora Jan 16 '17 at 15:36
  • The wonders of the edit function... thanks for pointing it out, @Pudora. – AnoE Jan 16 '17 at 15:50
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My children (8 and 6) were recently given a tablet by my in-laws. We (the parents) keep possession of it, and let them use it under our supervision as an occasional treat, or for educational activities.

Just because it belongs to them does not mean that they get to have it under their complete and unsupervised control. As others have suggested, this is really a problem for your parents to work out, but if you truly feel he's not using it in the spirit in which it was given, I don't see an issue with you "repossessing" it and lending it back to him on supervised occasions.

In the future, I'd suggest you clear any gift like this with your parents first. There are certain kinds of gifts --large amounts of candy, dangerous toys, smartphones/computers/tablets, PG movies, etc. --which can create extra difficulties for the parents if they aren't a match for their parenting decisions.

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    This actually is the first answer I fully agree with, its level headed, decent and rational. – user25887 Dec 28 '16 at 6:24
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    I fully agree with this as well. Though short, this answer had an important influence on guiding the direction of my decision, and it very succinctly describes the solution that we ultimately implemented. – dvtan Dec 28 '16 at 7:27
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You should make use of the tablet's child restrictions features to help your child control himself until he demonstrates the maturity to have more permissions.

I would suggest to make yourself the administrator of the tablet. The child should not have permissions to install apps, and only be able to use limited apps. This way, you can control how much time they use the device, and what apps are installed. He should have to earn the privilege to use the tablet.

Since you have an Android tablet, I would recommend:

  1. Factory reset the device to start with a clean slate.

  2. Create yourself as the Owner and don't share the passcode with your child.

  3. Create another user for your child as a Restricted Profile. This allows you to control what apps the Restricted User can use. Don't give permission for the Google Play store, and the Restricted User won't be able to install apps themselves. Instead, you install the app in the Owner account and give permission to the Restricted account.

You can follow the directions at http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/parental-controls-android .

Unfortunately, Android doesn't have a built-in time restriction feature. You can try a third party tool such as https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.screentime.rc , but those usually have monthly subscription fees.

Even for a computer, you should create a separate non-administrator account for others in your household so they can't install programs without your permission. Someone could unknowingly install malware in a blink of an eye.

  • It's an LG G Pad III. I've created a user account for him, but there are no permission restrictions that can be set. There does not seem to be any parental controls either. TBH I'd rather not rely on software restrictions; if he does not have the self-control, then I believe he should not have access at all. – dvtan Dec 27 '16 at 10:50
  • I added some steps for Android tablet. – mike Dec 27 '16 at 12:04
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    @DavidTan No one has perfect self control. The fact that he's already messed up multiple devices shows that. What's to stop him from reading online how to side-load pirated apps? Those come with a healthly dose of risk. I'd rather not rely on software restrictions has led to data loss, wasted time, and lost productivity - your words. If corporations have to control grown adult professionals... why are you so resistant to put in controls for an 8 year old? – WernerCD Dec 27 '16 at 18:13
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    @Mike I'd also add, since this is attached to some sort of phone plan, a suggestions to look into phone network restrictions. This tablet, being on a 2 year plan, screams AT&T/Verizon - which would lead to being able to add additional/different restrictions at that level. Time limits, data caps, etc. (I say ATT/Verizon, because 2 year plans are more common in the US... it could honestly be any other locale/carrier) – WernerCD Dec 27 '16 at 18:16
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At this point, the tablet has been confiscated and is controlled by your father. There's not really such a thing as "ungifting" something and since you are not the custodian of your little brother, you can't really take the device away from him either. Your father can, and he did.

If you want the tablet back in your own possession (for a refund, perhaps?), talk to your father about that. He might agree with you that this was a bad idea, and might return it. Or he might feel that a gift is a gift, but the tablet won't be returned until your brother is more responsible. (In this case, you might make an argument that the device will be worthless by then and it's better to refund this one and get a new one in a few years)

You might also owe your father an apology for giving the device to your brother in the first place. That's the kind of thing that you should have talked with him about before the gift, considering the responsibility of owning of such a device. Your father's initial reaction suggests he probably would not have approved of the gift in the first place.

At any rate; your little brother is pretty much out of the picture now. The tablet is no longer in his possession. Any follow-up should be done with your father. Talk to him to see what happens next.

  • It won't be returned as I got it for "free" with a 2-year plan and I don't have any use for it. Actually, the tablet is in my possession right now, and I do intend on keeping it in the family. I appreciate your advice but I'm looking for concrete suggestions. I have some ideas: He should only be allowed to install paid games that he purchases with his own money (none that are free or have in-app purchases that employ addictive techniques), he may only use the tablet once all homework is complete for the day, breaking self-enforced rules results in permanent loss of access, etc. – dvtan Dec 27 '16 at 11:16
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    @DavidTan These ideas are still things you should discuss with your father. You are not in a position to set these rules on his tablet use, let alone capable of enforcing them. – Erik Dec 27 '16 at 11:26
  • You're assuming that his father can set rules and enforce them. I understand where you're coming from, and I wish your advice were applicable to the situation, but it isn't. – dvtan Dec 27 '16 at 11:53
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    If your specific situation involves a father who cannot perform parental duties, that should be in the question (with some more details) so the answer can be updated. – Erik Dec 27 '16 at 12:07
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    No - because that is not the question. If you want certain details into the answer, you need to put them in the question first, otherwise it will be very hard/impossible for later readers to understand the answers. – Erik Dec 27 '16 at 12:39
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This is really simple: kids and animals will mess things up or break them. That's life. If it's a gift to him, it's his to break. None of you should get attached to the tablet or anyone else's gift for that matter. As a separate matter of usage, with my 8yo, she gets tablet time if chores are done, homework etc. It's not in her possession otherwise. It comes down to an hour or less a night (minecraft mostly) on weekdays and maybe 3hrs/night on weekends (minecraft + youtube kids).

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Technically the simplest thing is to disable internet on the tablet. You can do this easily: wireless networks normally require the password, GSM networks require SIM card that can be removed.

This is reliable, even professional software engineer cannot connect the protected wireless network without knowing the password.

Before doing this, I would suggest to install selected educational apps. They are not addictive enough for this to be a problem and this way should be much more useful than just cutting the tablet into two.

protected by Rory Alsop Dec 28 '16 at 17:39

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