Tips on managing the amount of time children spend online

This post is going to make me sound like a right hypocrite but I’m weighing in with the do as I say not as I do card. Mum Rights and all that. You see, I’m a mum of 3 boys who love their devices, the youngest not so much as he’s on strict and easy to govern rules, the teenagers – sheesh! But here’s the tricky bit; my job means I spend most of my working time online and when I’m not working, I’m paying bills, shopping, reading & chatting to my friends and family on WhatsApp or messenger.

I live and breathe online, even my gym and run sessions have an online element via the apps I use, which makes me preaching to my kids about managing the amount they spend online a little weird and super hypocritical.

I guess the angle I’m coming from though, is from this; I’ve seen how inactive my boys are when using the internet and they simply haven’t got the self-discipline which I have on making sure they’re balancing out their online time with some active. It’s not just about phones, Play Stations and PC’s in the home too. I’m worried about how much of actual life they’re missing out on, from the car journey conversations we don’t have as they’re glued to their screens, or the days out they’re more interested in snap chatting rather than being in the moment.

We do have rules, like no phones at the dinner table, my youngest having very limited iPad time and my 13-year-old has an hour screen-free time before bed. I’ve suggested this to my 17-year-old son but that’s the age where I’ve really had to loosen the reins. The lightbulb moment came though, after finding out that children aged 5 to 15 are spending an average of 15 hours a week on the web, my teens, rather worryingly, can easily nudge over 15 hours when they’ve added in a lazy weekend.

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use and while the framework isn’t so suitable for my 3-year-old, it is a reminder to keep his iPad time limited especially when I’ve seen the change in his behaviour when he comes off even after 15 minutes.

 

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use

So my main concerns centre around how to manage the amount of time my 13 and 17-year-old spend online while both at home and at school.

I’m starting with empowering my guys to manage their own time, helping them to be mindful of how much they use their phones (the above digital 5 a day is the best resource for this) and tasking them to:

  • make sure they have complete screen free time before bed
  • make sure they’re active and sedentary times are balanced
  • regularly talk about staying safe online

There’s also some other options to explore, including installing extra security onto all devices, like Kaspersky Security Cloud, which gives parent’s the option to manage and adjust their children’s screen time, select which websites they can see, and stay informed of their whereabouts via GPS. As much as I’d love to think my children can be trusted, it’s still my role as their parent to set boundaries.

They know how to use privacy settings, as well as the report and block functions on the websites, social media channels and apps they use. But it’s also up to me to be on top of my game. It helps that I do know a thing or two about social media, but even the SnapChat ghosting update had me surfing the web to understand it, make sure I was properly clued up and able to discuss making sure they weren’t oversharing to strangers. Ironically, it was via some Facebook posts that I found out about it!

It’s safe to say I’m a pro of the whole online world. I’ll argue the benefits of its corner to anyone, but I also see the dangers and how the flip side is one where my boys live in a virtual world more than the real one. So it all comes down to balance, in a nutshell, and using what tools there are available to help you and your kids make sure they’re getting that balance as well as keeping safe online at all times.

And if I need to bring out the mum card to remind my boys that Mother Knows Best, then I will!

One suggestion for managing their time online is trying out the Digital 5 A Day which provides a base for a family agreement about internet and digital device use

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Teenagers, Don’t Judge your Parents. It’s Tough on Us Too

I’m all over the shop in the parenting race right now, with 2 teenagers and a preschooler I’m pretty much at each end of the journey. That’s 17 years of putting other people’s needs way in front of your own, 17 years of guilt trips, wondering if you’re doing it right? And 17 years of small victories. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never found being a parent stressful, never once had that panic that I’ve messed up by adding to the human race, if anything my kids have been the making of me.

The pros have far out weighed the cons, one thing I’ve found though, is you can never quite predict what’s next.

2012 was the year I really had to consult the books, the year I realised that we were about to hit the turbulent years and I was loosing my grip and confidence on knowing what I was doing. Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’d trained in early years, the 0-8 age range, and that knowledge game me the gumption that I pretty much had a handle on the whole parenting thing. I oozed 0-8 years confidence and that confidence saw me through to the end of the primary years.

Then it hit me, my boy was going to secondary school, my boy was entering a whole new world where I had very little control. Not that I was ever a controlling parent, I prefer to describe as very much hands on in every aspect of his life. Not anymore though, now I’d done my thing and my little boy was about to be released into a big bad world of swearing, violence, sex, drugs and alcohol. A world where he would have to make his own choices, sensible or not, and all I could do was sit back and have confidence that I’d instilled some of my gutsy, don’t be a sheep ideologies and be your own person, make your own choices. 

Which probably quite amusing to my parents who had watched me fall prey to many of the teenage temptations and learn the hard way. Was I going to be hypocritical and say how bad those temptations were? And would I get my parental payback for all the strife I’d caused?

raising teenagers is hard, here's how I'm doing it

photo taken by The AMP Photo Co

My siblings and I often analyse our upbringing, we’re very close and open like that, testament to my parent’s treating us all equally and with honesty and respect to make our own way through life. Sure, we messed up, but we learnt from it and they never washed their hands of us when we did.

Whether that was ever a conscious decision brought about by a “how we gonna raise our kids?’ type discussion I’ll never know. ( I doubt very much though, I think my folks had very different out looks on life.)  We’ve all done alright though, all pretty emotionally secure. It was a pretty boss childhood. A few  blips, that’s life though; we probably could’ve done with a little more support through the teenage years when our parents were busy getting divorced. But that was just it isn’t it? They were only human and had to rein it in for a little while while they got their heads around what was going on.

And there is it, that one little negative, that one little human trait we all fall prey to. Which is why I guess I lost it at the thought of raising a teenager. What if my kids look back on their upbringing and say “yeah, she did all right. Up until I hit teens and then it all went a little belly up” ?

raising teenagers is hard, here's how I'm doing it

photo taken by The AMP Photo Co

But my upbringing showed that kids are pretty resilient especially if they have the best possible start in life, that sometimes throwing a curve ball, mixing things up and cutting back a little, getting your kids to start taking some initiative in life builds character. I loosed the Protective Mum reins, made our house a welcome place for all their friends and chauffeured them round. My thinking; teenagers are going to do what they’re going to do. All I can do is try to make things as safe as possible without helicopter parenting them at a time when they want to be free.

It’s a mind field and leap of faith I’ve had to talk myself through many a time.

Yet we’ve got there. I say we, there’s very little co parenting going on these days now I’m single parenting it. Which is a whole different thing to throw in the mix. But in some respects, doing it solo can be easier, there’s no conflict of ideas. I do my thing, I get back up and mull things over with my friends and family when need be.

So yes, I do feel I’ve got there; A 17-year-old who’s doing ok, actually I’m pretty damn proud of the man he’s morphing into. And my 13-year-old, my beautiful work in progress is showing great potential to go the same way.

But don’t ever let it be said that raising teenagers is easy. There will be tears, there will be moments where you think you’ve lost every ounce of control and there will be times when you think they don’t need you anymore.

But they do. And while you may get very little back, you just have to look for the signs of appreciation, sometimes with a microscope.

Raising teenagers just takes guts, trial and error and negotiation.

A bucketful of negotiation.

raising teenagers is hard, here's how I'm doing it

photo taken by The AMP Photo Co

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Setting Online Parental Controls With The Help Of O2 & NSPCC

I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself to keep check on the parental controls on all the devices my kids have. It’s been really easy to let things slip as they get a little older but compared to how I was with my older son, the tween has a lot more freedom. While I’m fully aware that this whole parenting game is pretty much trial and error (should profusely apologise to my teenager at this point, he has been a total learning curve) now I’ve settled into the role and am a lot more confident that I’m doing ok, I’ve been free wheeling with the tween.

But he’s the quiet one, the one which won’t make a fuss and just go about his day playing his xbox, checking his phone and watching TV when we’re home, while my lively toddler takes up a lot of my time. We always used to joke that my sister, the middle child, only ever appeared so well behaved (compared to me) because she was so quiet and in hindsight, she wasn’t the total squeaky clean teen we all thought she was. Silence was her virtue, where as open and nonchalant me got away with nothing!

So I’m using that gift of hindsight to take a reality check on my quiet little 12 year old and setting up parental controls on his iPhone, sorry son! He’s at such a vulnerable and impressionable age and the internet can be a dark, dark place. I had been using a Home Halo device to filter unsuitable websites to their devices. The peace of mind it gave me was invaluable but since that packed in, I’m relying on the BT broadband parental controls as well as setting up the correct ages on all their apple devices and keeping check on browsing histories that they’re not access anything they shouldn’t which has slipped the net.

KidzInMind is an ‘app of apps’, unlocking over £50 worth of educational games and apps that can be played by children on smartphones & tablets

Social networking is a big scare factor for any parent theses days but I do feel it’s something which we have to allow. I regularly check my tween’s followers and at 12 I think it’s not unreasonable to know his passcodes, making sure we have that conversation about staying safe online  and for him to know that I’ll be doing it so he can exercise a little self control.

My real concerns, however, are when he’s searching the web and the possibility of him stumbling on things by mistake.  knowing where to start when your kids get new devices is a total mine field though. Even a technology loving mum like myself is finding it harder to stay ahead of the game. Initiatives like those offered by the NSPCC and  O2 provide parents with the free advice and technical support they need to keep children safe online.

For example, they run workshops with parents across the country, and offer a free dedicated helpline service – 0808 800 5002 – for any internet safety questions (i.e. setting parental controls). Additionally parents can get hands-on free assistance in-store with O2 Gurus. (you can book an appointment here)

With the statistics showing that;

  • Childline has seen a 60% year on year increase in counselling sessions with children left worried after seeing porn online.
  • ·      NSPCC research found that children were as likely to find pornography accidentally, as to deliberately search for it.
  • ·      Web traffic to the NSPCC’s parent advice on protecting young people from the impact of porn has increased by 58% during 2016.

Setting parental controls is something to be taken very seriously.

making sure your kids don't loose their momentum when it comes to their education is easy with these fun homework ideas

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post 

 

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A Mum’s Defence Of  Pokemon Go! 

Just for the record, I’m in camp ‘yay!’ for Pokemon-Go.

Well, when I say I, I mean us. As in my teenager sons and I, the collective. You see back in the day of huge TV’s and Nokia 3310’s, Pokemon was a simple TV programme with a really cute but kick-ass yellow bunny thing. Let’s call him Pikachu, because that was (is?) his name and along with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and other TV shows which names escape me, I vaguely remember it being part of our viewing pleasure.

So I’m not completely in the dark with this whole Pokemon Go craze.

I didn’t pay much attention at first, not thinking for a moment my skateboarding teen would be interested. But in between teenager mumbles early this summer, I was sure I was picking up the word Pokemon.

Nah, must’ve been wrong, I thought.

But then I heard it again, and again and again. 4 strapping 16 years olds huddled round their phones at the kitchen table mumbling the words Pokemon Go. Then within the blink of an eye skateboards were located, trainer positions enquired and “we’re going out’s” uttered and they were gone.

For hours.

I’m my day, going out for hours involved mischief, often sitting around in parks, there would probably be alcohol and cigarettes, and more mischief. We were bored so we rebelled. I know not all teenagers my age did it, but I did.  (That’s my excuse and I’ll stick by it.)

So in defence to the man who claims that his boy won’t be allowed out Pokemon Go hunting and to his comments that my boy should be kicking a ball in a field somewhere. This is for you;

Technology is here to stay, the golden age of days spent kicking a ball in a field is here to stay. But when your boy is the only boy kicking a ball in a field while his mates are out Pokemon Go -ing. Embracing technology, having fun, challenging each other, discussing their finds and getting out of their insular bedrooms out in the fresh air. Then maybe, just maybe it’s time to admit that it’s not so bad after all.

Parenting is about sharing your child’s passions, showing an interest in what excites them and creating conversations which you know they’ll want to be part of. That’s not always an easy task with teenagers and tweens so you have to adapt to their worlds if you don’t want to be left to limited conversations.

So what if it’s via a mobile phone, that’s the way the world is moving and if Pokemon Go is the reason my boys are getting their kicks, so be it.

That’s my defence statement as a mum to 2 Pokemon Go hunting boys, who now speak to each other about their finds, the media has done a pretty good job or sharing all the horror stories so I’m sharing mine. And who knows, maybe if my washing pile suddenly becomes manageable and the dinner cooks it’s self then maybe, just maybe. I’ll join them.

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Will Trutex School Uniform make it through the term?

Each August I try to fluff up the back to school doldrums with the excitement of buying the boys school uniform. Yet by giving them the option to choose their own is a hard lesson I’ve had to give in to over the years as they blank point refuse to wear certain styles or colours. It’s actually really hard keeping up with what’s in and what’s out these days, a stark reminder that I’m not the down with the kids, cool mum I always aspired to be.

But as I’m holding the purse strings I have some control to make sure I hand over my hard-earned cash for goods which are going to

  • a – Fit
  • b – wash well
  • c- not need require ironing. ( I have a serious ironing resistance, I’ll put my hands up)
  • d – can withstand an hour’s rugby/football/general teenage rough-housing a day

Not too much to ask for really is it?

So come this September, I’ll be sending my pre teen off on his merry way fully kitted out in Trutex school uniform,  for what will probably be their toughest challenge yet. Being the middle child, he was strangely excited about trying it all on when it arrived. A lifetime of hand me downs I guess. And together we scrutinised a pair of trousers, 2 shirts and blazer.

 The Trousers

First off, he was quite impressed with the lining of the trousers. Very smart, formal looking and luckily, an adjustable elastic to bring in the waist. A must with my skinny little dude who hates belts. He also commented on the 3 pockets, one of which had an extra side zip to keep rubbers and pencil sharpeners from falling out.

reviewing the Trutex range of kids school uniform, ready for the next new term

reviewing the Trutex range of kids school uniform, ready for the next new term

School Uniform Staple – The Blazer

Now Blazers are a slight bone of contention in our house, they’re not cheap but rarely seem to last the school year. I’m not talking size wise here, I’m on about wear and tear. Now I appreciate that my boys spend their break times being active, but if you could see the state of them after a term you’d appreciate my angst.

By the final month of the Teenager’s school year, it was ripped in every place imaginable. Knowing how fed up I get with repair stitch jobs (and how bad I am at sowing) he even tried stapling it together! We’re talking arms hanging off and full splits up the back.

So rather than go for the standard school issue, I’m giving the Trutex blazer a try this year. It means we’ll have to remove the school badge from his old one as you can’t buy them separately, but luckily there’s a small zip access for embroidery.

reviewing the Trutex range of kids school uniform, ready for the next new term

I chose this blazer  over the contemporary style as  it’s manufactured using  re-vive blazer fabric.

This innovative fabric is made from certified 100% recycled post consumer polyester yarns.

I have absolutely no idea what that means (I’ve quoted it from their website) but with a ‘made to last’ promise, I’m also doing my bit for the planet.

I should also add that the Tween liked the 2 internal zip pockets as he tends to keep pens on him rather than keep reaching for a pencil-case, the mobile phone pocket comes in handy for obvious reasons!

reviewing the Trutex range of kids school uniform, ready for the next new term

The thing which really sold it to me though, was the side splits rather than one centre split. This is where the first signs of damage has always appeared. Fingers crossed we avoid that this time.

reviewing the Trutex range of kids school uniform, ready for the next new term

Shirts – Cheap v’s Quality

Last but not least, and to complete our Trutex school uniform tick list, we have a long sleeve, poly cotton easy care shirt. A non iron shirt in basic terms! Now here’s where I’m stepping into the unknown. In the past I’ve gone cheap and cheerful with the notion of replacing when they look worn.

This has actually proved to be complete false economy as I’ve had to replace them so often, in hindsight I should have gone for quality over quantity. Aside from the stray threads around seem, they’ve ripped at the arms, the pockets have fallen off and despite saying non iron, they’ve been anything but.

The difference in quality over last term’s shirt collection is seen straight away. We’re a week’s use, that’s 4 washes in, and so far so good. And if hung up straight from the drier, requires no ironing.

So am I a Trutex school uniform convert?

Will I be staying away from supermarket cheapies?

Do I have the confidence these will last a school year, pending no over zealous growth spurts?

On first impressions, yes.

Time will be the telling here, so I will pop back in a month’s time with an update.

Disclaimer

We have been sent the mentioned items in return for an honest review. All words and photographs are my own unless quoted.

 

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