Parent Resource

Get Your Kids’ Tech Ready for Back-to-School

By Denise Lisi DeRosa

It’s that time of year again. The long lazy days of summer are winding down. It’s time for families (grateful parents, disgruntled teens) to get back on a normal schedule, back to work and back to school. It’s also time for parents to review their kids access to technology. Here are some easy to follow tips for setting reasonable expectations for tech use at home and in school. 

Elementary School 

Whether your child has a device of their own or one they use in the classroom, it is a good idea to go over some basic standards of behavior, etiquette and access. If your child is using a separate device at home to complete homework make sure any privacy and safety settings you have in your home grant access to their school’s Google classroom, shared drives and homework resources. You can set bookmarks or favorites in their browser to make this easier. For the younger kids, it’s probably wise to set a time-frame for them to use any tech for their homework so you or a sitter can be nearby to make sure they are staying on task and able to get to the sites, documents and classroom work they need. Of course, make sure they know and agree to your rules on using tech for homework and learning as opposed to any rules you have for games and entertainment. Parents of elementary school aged kids have the benefit of setting healthy tech habits early (those of us who had tweens and teens during the smartphone explosion are struggling to break bad habits). 

Top 3 Tech Ready Tips

  1. Use parental controls on home devices to set content restrictions, age restricted access, contact interactions and time limits. (Here’s how: AppleGoogleMicrosoft)
  2. Bookmark homework help, classroom connections and approved resources so they are easily accessed. Add educational apps and games to support learning.
  3. Establish separate rules and time limits for homework using technology and video games. Don’t include homework time in your overall screen time limits, they will rush through their homework to get more time for their games. 

Middle School

The ‘tween years (11-13) are when the digital drama and tech overuse gets harder to manage, for you and your child. Your kids are bucking for greater independence, navigating complex social relationships (offline and online) and are more influenced by peers than parents. This is when open communication with your child becomes more difficult but more necessary. If they have their own device, you need to adjust the privacy and safety settings best for your family. Apple, Google and Microsoft all have helpful parental controls, but you need to know how to use them and control their settings from your device (see links above). The parental controls allow you to set time limits, downtime, app limits, content and privacy restrictions as well as important location sharing options for family. I suggest you also go over adjusting notification settings for their social and entertainment apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube. For example, Instagram allows you to pause all notifications for a set time (i.e., during the school day or for an hour of homework), set time limits and provides a summary of your daily use. YouTube settings include reminders to take a break, content restrictions and turning off Autoplay.

Top 3 Tech Ready Tips

  1. Adjust the privacy and safety settings to include limits on location sharing and set a sleep time.
  2. Enforce a do-not-disturb time during homework and school to prevent distracting notifications from interfering with focused learning. 
  3. Go over proper etiquette for interacting with teachers and fellow students in any online communications. 

High School

I have teenagers so let me tell you fighting over screen time is a losing battle. Instead of adding up the minutes your teen is in front of devices consider instead to focus on purposeful use of technology as opposed to mindless scrolling. There is a vast difference between a teen who is on a screen for hours researching for a term paper versus a teen who is obsessed with what everyone else is posting on instagram. This is also the time we need to encourage our kids to use their social media skills to network with potential colleges, internships, and hiring managers. In order to do that, they need to review, edit and update their online profiles. Make sure they have included posts about their extra curricular activities, volunteer work, interests and that they are presenting a positive, well-rounded, authentic version of themselves online. 

Top 3 Tech Ready Tips

  1. Have your teen adjust notifications, do-not-disturb hours and set sleep time to focus their attention toward purposeful use during school and homework.
  2. Begin to audit their digital footprint. They need to de-clutter, clean-up and organize their personal online profile to best represent themselves post high school.
  3. Have them apply their social media skills to capitalize on the networking opportunities tech provides. 

Parents and Teachers

Overall, we want our kids to use technology to connect, collaborate, network and learn. It is up to us as parents and educators to guide our kids to use technology with intention and purpose. Mindful and balanced use of technology is at the core of all of my Digital Wellness Workshops. To learn more about my approach or request sessions for your school visit