Giving your kid a new device this fall? Here’s how to set them up for success
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, and school administrators are expecting a return to the classroom this fall, many parents hope their kids will partially untether themselves from their devices and direct some of that attention to their textbooks. That’s a legit expectation, right? Well, not exactly.
It seems digital learning tools, Google Classroom, along with apps and streaming services are here to stay. In a 2021 back-to-school survey conducted by Deloitte’s research division, survey participants suggest tech spending will surge as students prepare to return to the classroom this fall. In fact, this research suggests, “back-to-school spending is projected to rise 16% year-over-year.” Even more, “digital learning tools are replacing traditional school supplies, driving tech sales up 37% year-over-year.”
This is somewhat unexpected given the presumed return to normal. Normal classroom learning would suggest parents will be purchasing items for traditional school-supply lists. But students aren’t unlike America’s workforce: Last year’s unconventional experiences—thanks to the pandemic, remote work, flexible schedules and increased family time—have changed expectations even as our school and work environments are returning to normal.
“A lot of students are just used to a more digital learning experience,” says Kate Ferrara, US Retail, Wholesale and Distribution practice leader at Deloitte & Touche LLP. She and a panel of experts discussed the company’s survey results and takeaways on a recent podcast. “So (it’s about) using portals, using some apps that they used last year. For my own children, they’re really using technology more and more. They’ve gotten used to that.”
Ferrara also noted that tech is much broader than just a laptop your kid might bring to school. It’s online subscriptions to learning tools and platforms as well as the manifestation of wearables and mobile devices.
If you’re among the many parents who plan to purchase new tech for your kids this fall, here are tips to balance their new devices with IRL activities important to their development.
Establish boundaries and shared expectations from the start. Sure, we all eased up on screen time rules during the pandemic. In fact, half of kids (48 percent) surveyed at the start of the pandemic were spending more than six hours per day online (a 500 percent hike since before the crisis). It goes without saying that many parents expect a near-normal school year will aid in cutting back on last year’s surge in device time. Still, kids are expected to be online more this fall than they were pre-pandemic. That’s where a consistent schedule can make a big difference. Identify and set times for your kid’s device use based on the situation: for school, for social, and entertainment needs, and when your kids should be offline altogether. If expectations are shared and kids are aware of the rules from the start, there won’t be any surprises—or emotional outbursts—when you ask them to turn it off later.
Set up device controls. You can set controls on individual devices or use Circle to help you manage all of your devices in and out of the home with content Filters, Time Limits, Usage tracking and more. Use the Circle app to set time limits for on and off screen time so your kids can stay on track throughout the year, while also taking interest in non-digital activities, like reading, playing an instrument, or getting active outdoors, for a more well-rounded day.
Build in some downtime. Taking digital breaks throughout the day is important for kids’ attention spans, productivity and focus. Studies show that breaks and short interruptions can decrease stress, boost brain function and increase focus. It’s also true that even stopping to take a short walk can boost creative thinking. Decide what rules you want to set—no devices during meals, midday breaks, and before bedtime, for example—and make them part of your kid’s new device routine. You can use Circle to schedule distraction-free Focus Time with a customized, screen time schedule. Then, use Rewards to treat kids to extra screen time for a job well done.
Engage with them and their new device or online platforms. Play games, watch videos, and curate quality content they can enjoy from their new device. Or take the time to check out your kid’s new app or learning tool. Ask them to show you around its features and concepts. Embrace what’s new with a positive attitude, and your kids will respect the boundaries you set on times and content that aren’t appropriate.
Be aware of cyberbullying. New devices can mean greater chance of exposure to online bullying and distractions from social media. Look for signs that they’re having a negative experience on their device, such as being emotionally upset during or after use, withdrawing from friends and family, or not doing well in school, and then have a conversation with them about their experience (here are tips for issues with social media or playing video games).
Kids can often fear parents will take the device away if they share what’s really going on so come from a place of empathy. Small changes and checking in can ensure your kid enjoys their new device for what it was intended for: to connect with friends, explore new interests, and keep up with school.
For more information about how Circle can help, visit our Features page.