Almost a year ago, the world flipped upside down and we were all sent home.
2020 happened, rules changed, habits formed, the “new normal” may not have ever felt quite normal, and we all became a lot more comfortable with online interactions.
But one day, life will go back to “normal,” right? At least some semblance of the way things used to be, even if it’s not quite the same. Kids will go back to school, sports practices will happen without face masks, and organizations, activities will resume, and extended families will gather together without worrying about social distancing.
When it comes to technology and devices in your home, what habits and guidelines were thrown out the window because of the pandemic? Were screens for school suddenly allowed in bedrooms so everyone in the family had a place to learn or work? Did you say yes to more hours of video games so your kid could socialize virtually? Or perhaps you gifted a smartphone to a child younger than you ever thought you would so they could connect with peers.
What about in your home? What new rhythms — dare we say rule-breaking — happened in your family?
Before we’re faced with yet another shift in circumstances, here are some things you can talk about with your kids as you prepare your post-pandemic tech plan.
1. What rules no longer applied?
Be honest. Ask your kids what they saw changing in your home and your parenting because of the pandemic and chime in, owning what you let slide.
More screen time? A new device at an earlier age? Social media permissions on apps you never thought you’d let your child use? Taking laptops into bedrooms so kids could participate in online school?
Make a list and talk through why each of those changed (with good reason!) and how they helped your family thrive — or at least survive! — the pandemic.
2. What is here to stay?
Some guidelines and habits that began because of the pandemic may feel irreversible. Make a list of what changed during the past year in the way your family interacts with technology that is here to stay.
If you purchased your child a new device for school or to provide them a tool for connection, you probably aren’t going to take it away, even if they are still younger than you ever expected to give them said device. Of course, you might, but you might not.
Make sure to add the fun and funny stuff! Maybe you weren’t so keen on your kids using tech for entertainment…but you discovered that your teenager has impressive video-editing skills as they created videos to send the grandparents during this time. And what about that one viral video you watched over and over and over again? Revisit the laughs to remember the good memories.
Celebrate how technology has brought your family together and what your children have accomplished because of it.
Add those to the list, too, so you can celebrate how technology has brought your family together and what your children have accomplished because of it.
3. What was temporary?
What habits and guidelines from pre-pandemic days will be reintroduced. Those kids who were allowed to take a laptop into their room for math class may not be allowed to have their device in that same place when academics aren’t the driving force. The hours spent on video games could shrink and be redirected to hanging out with friends in-person. A middle school student received a device earlier than ever expected, so younger siblings may not receive the same tech at the same age or grade.
Talk as a family about why those things changed in the first place and acknowledge that they were exceptions to the rule, not the rule. Think through together how things will go back to the way they used to be with technology and devices in your home and with your family.
4. When will things change?
After agreeing on what will change or go back to the way it was pre-pandemic, talk about what will be the trigger for these adjustments. Perhaps it’s the end of the school year or when your kids do return to in-person school? Or maybe it’s as your children are allowed to interact with other kids in real-life or participate in previous activities, like sports, music, clubs, and faith-based organizations?
How will your family dynamics also affect this? Working-at-home parents might have been the cause of some tech trends, too, so if your own career or commitments have done this, think about what will need to change for you, too. And don’t forget extended family, such as grandparents, how you “gather” for celebrations virtually versus in-person, and what participation will be required once you can attend such events again.
Lastly, there may be activities outside of school that have been moved to a screen. For the most part, kids will be excited to be back with friends, but there could be some activities in which your kids participate for which they’ll need a little motivation to resume regular attendance instead of sitting behind a screen.
5. When will we talk about this again?
After you have come up with what has changed, what is here to stay, what was temporary, and what will bring some things “back to normal,” agree upon a time to revisit these lists together.
At that time, see if your lists are still accurate. There could be a question or tech topic that no one had considered before this. (Ex: “But moooooooom, we did an online birthday party for Aunt Suzie last year, so why can’t I just go to my friend’s house all day on Saturday and do the online thing at lunch?”)
Also, give everyone a heads up if any particular change is just around the corner— in-person school resuming, spring break coming up, a birthday that will bring new privileges and responsibilities, etc. It’s easier to apply changes to tech expectations when everyone knows they are coming soon.
Set up for success
As you have these conversations, check out our 5 Tips for Talking with Your Kids about Parental Control Apps for ideas on how to shape these conversations.
Creating an environment for tech talks can make a big difference. Plan it when no one is in trouble, everyone is in a good mood, and tech is not actually present at the table or turned off if it’s in the room. Favorite snacks or a favorite meal can also help. Sometimes, these things go smoothly. Other times, well, there can be hiccups. Kids, especially teens, can have strong opinions about technology.
Show and tell
What are your favorite tech ideas you’ve used or heard about during the pandemic? What would you suggest for when things start to go back to normal (i.e. kids in school, working not from home, sports practices, music rehearsals, in-person activities, family gatherings, etc.)?