Technology at Home: Guidelines for TASIS Families

The following guidelines are based on research that is designed to equip caretakers with guidelines for their children’s safe use of technology. We believe these guidelines will help your children build a positive relationship with technology and avoid issues they may not be developmentally ready to manage. They can also serve as a starting point for family discussions. We firmly believe it is crucial that everyone in your family knows your expectations and rules for using technology, and we hope the following guidelines help your family along the way.

If you are not able or willing to monitor your children's technology use, discuss issues surrounding technology use with them, and help them manage any negative incidents that occur, do not provide them with the technology. The internet, in particular, is a powerful tool and we all must ensure that we are teaching our children responsible behavior to ensure safety for everyone in our community.

General Guidelines

  • Be a role model with your own device use. Children watch and learn from their caretakers. If you are regularly on your devices in front of them, they will think this is normal and mimic your behavior. Constant interruption from your phone can send a message to your child that your phone is more important than they are, as well as make you miss out on important emotional or social cues your child is sending. Additionally, we request that you do not message or call your child during the academic day. If there is a family emergency, please contact your respective divisional office.

  • Decide which apps and websites are acceptable and when they can be used. Clear rules can help children know where the boundaries are and what the consequences will be if they break the rules. Take this opportunity to encourage your child to use technology to learn, create, and explore their passions. If children are with friends, consider limiting or removing electronics, which will encourage creative, non-screen-based play. Make meals and other family gatherings device-free. Remember: the legal age for using all major social media apps (e.g. WhatsApp, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, etc.) is at least 13 years old. In Europe, WhatsApp now has a legal minimum age of 16 years. Family rules may change as children get older, social policies adapt, and new technologies come out. What is most important is that families discuss their rules so everyone understands the expectations and consequences.

  • Set a time each evening—at least one hour before bed—when your child is expected to stop using electronics. There is growing evidence that the light from electronic displays increases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep as well as reduces sleep quality. For younger children and pre-teens, ensure there are no electronic devices in their bedroom during sleep time. Getting adequate and quality sleep is a major factor in learning, and lack of sleep appears to be one factor in a recent increase in mood disorders among young people.

  • Ensure your child has a distraction-free environment during homework or study. So-called multitasking makes it difficult to focus for the extended periods of time that are needed for learning. There is also evidence that increased distractions present in children’s lives can lead to loss of attention with long-term tasks. Smartphones should be removed or turned off, though the occasional break to check for messages may be helpful for teens. If computers are needed for homework, enable “do not disturb” modes (macOS, iOS, Android, Windows) and talk to your children about the importance of focus while studying.

  • Regularly talk with your children about their online relationships. Like we encourage for offline relationships, it important to instill a sense of respect for others online as well. Develop a plan in case interactions get overly negative or hurtful, or children feel they are being bullied. Online predators are real and can easily pretend to be someone else. Children should not engage with, “friend,” or “follow” people they do not know offline. Children should never share images of themselves or personal information online, unless caretakers have given permission (e.g. sharing with a family member). Teens using social media should make use of private accounts and blocking features—as well as not share sexual images of themselves—to avoid potentially damaging interactions.

  • Do not share your passwords and payment information. In particular, never share your account passwords, device passcodes, or credit card information with your child. There are systems available for families to pay for and share content without needing to share account or payment information. Children under 13 should have their own “child” accounts (e.g. Apple ID, Google account, Microsoft account) connected to the main family account. See Apple Family Sharing (macOS and iOS), Google Play Family Library (Android), and Microsoft Family Groups (Windows) for more information.

  • Set rules around video game play. Caretakers should know which games their children are playing to ensure they meet the family’s rules. Use PEGI to look up game titles and learn about their age-appropriateness. Make sure your children take a break during play. Be aware that some games require additional purchases (e.g. loot boxes, extra lives, skins, emotes, etc.), which can add significant costs to play. Importantly, be aware that many games now have social features that allow players—who can be of any age—to chat or provide gifts to other players. The use of these features ranges from useful (organizing players to complete a task) to mean (harassing players with inappropriate language) to abusive (“grooming” players to provide personal information and images for nefarious purposes).

Grades Pre-K to 8 Guidelines

  • Do not provide your child with a smartphone before Middle School. Consider waiting until Grade 8 to provide a smartphone. Most children are not mature enough to handle anytime, anywhere access to the internet and their friends. Starting in grade 4, TASIS students are experiencing increasing issues with social pressure, harassment, and exclusion stemming from smartphone use. If you feel your child needs a phone for safety purposes, start with a basic cell phone that can be used only for calls and SMS messaging, like the Nokia 3310 or Caterpillar B30. Children can use other devices like laptops or tablets at home to connect with family around the world. If you have already given your child a smartphone, it’s not too late to take it back and discuss why. Caretakers are in control, not children.

  • Limit the use of electronics at home to public spaces. Children should use electronic devices within easy viewing of caretakers to make sure they are using them appropriately. We recommend avoiding the use of headphones so caretakers can also hear what is being accessed by children. In particular, do not allow internet-connected devices in private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms, especially during sleep time.

  • Know all of your child’s passwords and passcodes, and check their devices and accounts regularly to make sure your child is following your rules and having a positive experience. In particular, check all accounts, apps, and video games that have social features that allow users to communicate with others. Inform your child that you will periodically log in to their accounts to check on their digital life. Suggest that they tell their friends as well.

  • Use parental control software to set age-appropriate content and time limits. Open access to the internet and apps provides access to content that can be highly inappropriate and damaging to young minds. Additionally, there is growing evidence that device overuse is linked with obesity, behavior issues, and loss of social skills. All modern operating systems have built-in parental control features that can limit the types of apps and websites your child has access to, as well as set time limits for device and app usage. See How to set up a parental controls on an Apple Mac (macOS), How to set up Screen Time for your child (iOS), Google Family Link: What It Is and How to Use It (Android), and Microsoft Family Safety: How To Set Up Parental Controls in Windows (Windows) for more information.

Additional Resources

References

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