HOW CAN I BEST FOSTER MY SON'S RESPONSIBLE USE OF THE IPAD?
As in most situations involved with raising responsible children, it makes sense to approach your son’s use of the iPad, at least initially, by limiting the privileges and freedoms he has with the device. At the risk of making an obvious statement, it’s easier to grant privilege gradually in a controlled fashion after the child has demonstrated an understanding of his responsibilities than it is to reel in privileges that were granted too early.
What follows are suggestions and recommendations Fenn and other schools have found useful in establishing healthy and responsible use of technology among students.
FENN CONSIDERS THE IPAD AN EDUCATIONAL DEVICE, NOT AN ENTERTAINMENT OR GAMING DEVICE, AND WILL COMMUNICATE THIS EXPECTATION FREQUENTLY WITH STUDENTS. PLEASE SUPPORT US BY REINFORCING THIS MESSAGE AT HOME AND BY AVOIDING (OR, AT LEAST, LIMITING) THE USe OF ENTERTAINMENT APPS and web surfing.
While we expect the iPad storage to be adequate for your son’s academic use while at Fenn, he will need to manage this storage carefully overtime (and his teachers will help him do so).
Additionally, Fenn will not permit boys to use their devices for gaming during the academic day unless a specific app has been approved by a teacher for use in an academic class.
LIMIT HOW MUCH TIME YOUR SON SPENDS ON THE DEVICE AT HOME.
Fenn teachers are purposeful with how they use educational technology to support the overarching educational goals of each class. We will not depart from this approach with our 1-1 iPad program. While Fenn teachers will make good use of iPads, the devices will remain one of the tools in their teaching repertoire; as a result, students will not use the device in every class, every day, for every assignment. Their use of the iPad at home should be similarly limited. In fact, we expect that the only daily use of the iPad will be to check briefly one’s homework assignments. Beyond this use, daily use of the iPad for homework will vary (parents will be able to easily get a sense of this use by reviewing their son’s assignments).
Although these homework amounts are guidelines only, students in the middle school should expect approximately twenty to thirty minutes of homework for each course which will meet the next day. This equates to a maximum of two hours of homework per day and includes the time each student may have already put in to completing his homework at school. In the upper school, the amount ranges from thirty to forty-five minutes per course for a maximum of three hours of homework per day (our new schedule permits a maximum of four academic courses to meet on a given day). As it is highly unlikely that all of a boy’s homework for each course will require everyday use of the iPad to complete, you should review with your son his use of the iPad should he report needing to use the device for more than an hour every evening.
REQUIRE YOUR SON TO USE THE IPAD (AND ANY INTERNET ENABLED DEVICE) IN PUBLIC SPACES, FREQUENTLY MONITOR HOW HE IS USING THE DEVICE.
Desktops, laptops and iPads should not be located and used in private spaces like bedrooms or basements as this approach tends to encourage riskier decision-making online. If you have not already done so, work with your son to establish a quiet but public workspace in your house which you can monitor directly or easily supervise as you move about the house. This approach will allow you to see how he is using the device, to observe how long he is devoting to a particular use or application and to ask him questions about his use. And, if he is using the device and managing his time well, let him know!
Although your son may balk at what he perceives to be an invasion of privacy, we also strongly encourage you to check the “History” tab in his web browser in order to be aware of which sites he is using. If you notice that the browsing history is brief or non-existent, that may mean that your son is purposefully deleting the history, an action which would suggest that he is attempting to hide where he is going on the internet.
MODEL THE BEHAVIOR YOU WANT YOUR SON TO EMULATE WITH THE IPAD.
In the introduction to her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, author Catherine Steiner Adair writes,
Our children watch us at home, on our cell phones, and at every other opportunity, for cues to help them navigate life. As parents, our relationship with tech and our patterns of behavior around it become a training ground for those impressionable youngsters as they forge their own relationships with tech. It is all too easy for us to complain when our children favor screen diversions and ignore us, when that is what we teach them by example.
She is pointedly addressing what many of us may unintentionally be modeling, often under the well-intentioned belief that our physical presence equals our emotional presence, that we can simultaneously pay attention to our screens while also paying meaningful attention to each other. As we all know from experience, this is rarely possible. As you think about your son’s relation with technology, reflect on your own and see where you might be able to positively model setting aside technology to pay better attention to the task at hand and the people present.
At Fenn, we are, perhaps paradoxically, excited by the opportunities we will have as adults to show our students when to set technology aside in favor of richer face to face interactions or contemplative moments alone on a walk, with pencil and paper or immersed in a good book.