My 9-year-old is in this situation concerning media:
- She has limited access to a family PC (restricted account with a time limit of X minutes per day). She uses that for Youtube and Minecraft.
- She has a Nintendo Switch (again, with a daily time limit and parental controls in place). She sometimes gets games as present, and has to buy further games from her pocket money. No trouble here - she does not have that many games, and does not really want anymore either. Minecraft+Mario more or less do it for her.
- She plays appropriate co-op games together with me on the PC (e.g., Humans Fall Flat, Trine etc.), which does not count against her time limit. Games are not per se a bad thing in our family and there is no "bad taste" about them.
- She has no online identity of any kind (i.e., no account with which she can chat etc., anywhere).
- There is no TV (sure BlueRay/DVD, but no classical TV/Netflix/etc. except for Youtube); and she's not missing that - never experienced it.
But right now, she's hitting that age where everybody else has "everything" (laptops, tablets, smartphones, YouTube accounts, ...) and she has "nothing". It is in fact true that she sees those devices all around her - her (almost adult) sibling obviously has an unlimited smartphone; I do; and most of her friends have some kind of device (usually consoles/tablets, and occasionally smartphones).
The issue is not so much the technology or even prices (yesterdays devices are cheap enough on ebay and would be more than sufficient), but about her getting very much frustrated by the fact that there are these limitations imposed upon her (time limits, parental controls...). It is also not about wanting to have longer time limits at all; it is about owning stuff (devices, accounts, the power to decide when and what to do).
The reason why I employ those controls are:
- I do trust her completely that she would not knowingly do something "bad". I.e., she has earned this trust over and over again in the past in everything she does in the digital and analog world. But I also do know fully well that she still has the normal children naivete/gullibility and is not ready yet for, for example, social media; i.e., if she gets a friend request in some online game, she is exceedingly happy about having a friend; she cannot yet distinguish what that word means in an online setting from what a real friend is. I am not trusting her not to divulge sensitive information quite yet; and also I am just a bit loath to devalue the concept of friendship in any way - she is not having an easy time building friendship with same-old real-world acquaintances (she has one actual friend, but it's labour to keep it that way...).
- I know from experience that when I do relinquish the time limits (e.g., during holidays), she will more or less be online full-time, and do nothing else anymore; with all associated effects (being irritable, "down" etc.). The pull of that medium is all to irresistible, and again, I know from own experience how that works. Frankly, I want to protect her from that as long as humanly possible.
- Aside from being creative and tinkering around with all kinds of stuff (cardboard, "slime" etc.), she has no other hobbies (sports, instrument etc.). I want to give her some "downtime" from the stuff that would consumer her complete time so that there is some chance for her to develop an interest in a real-world skill, which, as we know, are easiest to obtain in the age bracket she is entering now. I would not force some hobby on her; I did and do offer her things regularly (i.e., encourage her to test out hobbies; go to trial days together with her etc.) and so far there was nothing which really sparked her interest. But I'm pretty sure from what I am seeing around me in other families that if her time is consumed by devices, there is little to no chance that something will develop.
With her older sister, we were very happy with waiting until 13 years until she had her first PC (restricted), and 15 until the first unrestricted smartphone; and having all limits be mostly technical instead of constant "manual" fighting over time removed all cause of day-to-day conflict. That one was hardly interested in anything though, so there was really no problem to solve, at all.
But this time around, the world has moved on, and continuing like this for 4 more years seems counterproductive - she is getting the feeling right now that she is being suppressed compared to others, that we are intentionally "mean" to her etc. Yes, I do know that kids know how to "play" their parents, but there certainly is something more going on in her mind currently, and there would be a good point in time to grow, right now.
I would love her to have complete ownership and accountability/responsibility for her stuff, and it would be great for her development, I think. I'm more or less just looking for a kind of "framework" to get this up and running smoothly, without falling into the obvious parental traps...
How do you do that with your children? Did you have a good solution? Did it work? Do you just give them free access and manage all the issues that may or may not crop up in the old-fashioned way?