4 min read
Back to school is a time of beginnings, a reset, an opportunity to lay a foundation for our families to flow and thrive in the coming year. The modern family is always thinking about tech. Our digital lives are a central part of our worlds. How we design tech boundaries – or iRules – helps to shape the well-being of our everyday. But it’s always hard to know just where to begin. That’s ok. These prompts can help you get started on creating a working set of Back to School iRules.
Find a little space in your life to sit down by yourself or talk to a partner or your childcare provider – even with your child – using these prompts as a focus. Remember, the most effective set of iRules are the ones that look and feel like your family. Allow your iRules to come to life, growing, adapting and changing as a work in progress, just like your family.
- A Year in Review: Reflect back on last school year. What worked and what didn’t? Where and why was there some struggle? What part of your family tech use is going well and where do you need to improve?
- Name Your Stress: What worries you the most? What (device, app, social network, game, behavior, circumstance, time of day) is on your mind and why? Name it, so you can tame it.
- Tech Tendencies: Consider each child and think about the support and boundaries they may need with summer just ahead. Differentiate their needs to set each child up for tech success.
- Make a Match: What does your fall schedule look like? What is an effective homework routine? How is homework done? Making iRules that match your family’s process and schedule makes sense.
- Family Goals: What do you want your days to look like? How does tech fit into your family plan? Draw, list or write the ideal school day. How does tech show up?
- Tech Inventory: Make a list with each child’s name on it. Make a list of all the accounts they have or places they show up online. You may need their help with this. Think social media, gaming accounts, apps, iTunes, YouTube, texting, email, streaming services.
- Question It: Does anything surprise you on this list? Do you know what it is and it how works? Do you know who they interact with in these places online and how? Who are their friends and followers? Who are they playing in their online games? Who are they chatting with? What are they watching on Netflix? What’s challenging them? What are they loving? Tech Talk ‘em! Get to know the tech through their eyes and experiences. This will help you manage it better.
- Askable Adult: Clear the communication channels. Make sure that you have openly and consistently identified yourself (and others) as adults that want to help and can help when the going gets tough (confusing, uncertain, unbelievable) online. You don’t have to like everything that happens – and there may be consequences – but let your child know you can handle it. Kids need adults. Teenagers need adults. Students need adults. Be that adult.
- Write it Down: After spending time sifting through the previous prompts. Start putting some iRules to paper. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, start small with maybe three to five “Family iRules” that can be integrated into your family culture. Making your iRules tangible and visible – a reference point – helps everyone commit and stay with it.
- You too: Taking care of yourself in the digital world is important too. Yes, because you’re modeling for your family, but also because grown-ups need boundaries too. We need time away from all the information we consume, work we do and constant connection. Think about your personal and professional needs as you create a tech healthy life for your family.
Need some more inspiration to build an iRules contract? Check out these iRules contracts Janell has created for her family.
Janell Burley Hofmann is the author of iRules: What Every Tech Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. She is an international speaker, consultant and founder of iRules Academy and The Slow Tech Movement. Janell lives on Cape Cod with her husband and five children ages 9, 11, 13, 15 & 17. For more information or to connect with Janell, visit janellburleyhofmann.com.