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Exposition

Device bound kids

Boundaries + Tablets = Educated Kids & Happier Parents

I’ve been quiet these past few weeks as six attempts to fly from Taiwan to Maine to see my kids after nearly a year was finally successful. As such, my personal life got more attention than you. 😉

Though Jace is hanging upsidedown and resting underneath my laptop while this is being written, life is calmer, and most surprises, pleasant.

Through Slack at work, I mentioned shifting Jace ~4 and Drusus ~7 from Amazon Fire tablets to iPads. In turn, a friend of mine asked about my limiting device usage for them.

I responded with the following, just further edited.

For the past two years, each child has had an Amazon Fire Kindle kid’s tablet. I bought the Kindles because of the better parental controls. Now though, Apple’s Screen Time and Family Sharing are reliable.

Why iPads?

With Drusus attending two-days a week in-person classes and the rest from home, I felt that the iPad was more appropriate because of access to programs like Seesaw for classroom assignments and Epic for reading.

Further, my kids got into Minecraft. And, after a year of them being limited to playing it on the Kindle, I thought upgrading them to the iPad would be a kindness. 

It’s incredible seeing what three-year-old Jace can build and craft in the game from horseback. Drusus once had eleven unique houses with many features like swimming pools, animal yards, lava kitchens, and much more.

Now, their Minecraft adventures are even grander to include playing in the same world with each other and regional friends. A definite winner at $7 for the application.

Two kids giving iPads deep attention

Time Limits

Through the Kindles, each child was limited to two hours a day of usage. That time allowance broke into 45 minutes of books, 30 minutes of videos, 30 minutes of applications, and 15 minutes of games.

For the iPads, I no longer limit device timings to two hours a day. Just entertainment and game applications are.

This way, the educational stuff is accessible anytime. Therefore building ecosystems, exploring the human body, reading unicorn farts, and doing logic puzzles remain accessible while Hot Wheels ID, Minecraft, and kids Netflix aren’t.

In comparing time spent on the Kindle versus iPads, it has increased. After digging into details, I’m considering limiting the device itself to four-hours daily.

The reason is that PBS Kids and Videos are educational, yet, they sure feel like games than education after a couple of hours.

Alternately, I could limit education to just a couple of hours a day as well. However, Drusus is creative and deliberate, AKA slow in getting homework done. Therefore, two-hours daily for education isn’t enough. 

Hence the overall device time-limit in which effort management for kids arises by their choice.

Stepping back regarding time-limits. It’s so much less stressful enforcing time limits by devices than hollering at kids. We all can look at the machine and see that no more time is available as a group together than separately.

iPad Each, Not Shared

Further, each iPad is secured to one kid, plus they’re taught that each iPad is their own. Therefore no touching each other’s device nor sharing access permissions.

This has helped the kid’s mom, and I overcome the situation in which one child finishes their Kindle time and then grabs their brother’s device, using up that time while they’re away.

Beyond the amount of time the kids can operate their devices, whether Kindle or iPad, I also set access periods.

For now, the iPads are effectively off from 7:30 PM until 6:30 AM. What a great way to prevent kids from playing on the devices first thing in the morning and lastly at night.

Kids reacting to almond butter and sour cherry sandwiches, for dinner

Punishment?

With the time-limits above, as each kid gets a couple of hours a day to play their games intermixed with getting homework and reading done, the kids find that time precious.

Therefore, I’ve taken to kids losing 30-minutes of entertainment and game time or longer as a way to reinforce desired behavior like showering, brushing teeth, and getting day clothes on.

The kids get two warnings to come to mealtime or move on to something else before losing iPad access. I used to do three notices, but I’ve figured out that the kids either acknowledge me on the first attempt or not at all without personal intervention.

When a particular youngster thinks electronic devices are projectiles or stomping pads, they lose their device access for days.

Managing Access

Drusus and Jace each have an Apple account, through which I manage and monitor their iPad usage via Screen Time under Family Sharing. 

When misbehavior arises, it’s relatively easy to pull out my iPhone and alter those days or upcoming access times and applications.

With the loss of time or day’s access, frustration is loudly heard, and tears pour out. Yet, within a few minutes, the kids are moving on because our being consistent about a device’s when and how usage is allowed helps them understand boundaries and expectations.

Two kids eating snacks in a car trunk

Sharing Applications

Apple’s Family Sharing is pretty slick in that applications purchased from one account are typically accessible to four other users under the same Family Sharing scenario.

In short, buy an application once; five people can use it. Yet, I have found that subscriptions like Epic are user-specific. Hence, no five for one purchase access.

Geek Details

In talking about the iPads specifically, they’re the latest; 8th generation, 32 GB, cellular-capable iPads. Cellular means that I have T-Mobile SIM cards installed for constant data access.

I went the cellular route to prevent solely relying on wifi, use as a where are my kids’ helper, and be impactful travel distractions.

Remote learning via iPads

Accessories

Regarding accessories, Jace has a typical iPad cover. 

Meanwhile, Drusus loves its basic Apple Keyboard cover. It’s essentially the same keyboard and lid that I used with my iPad Pro for two years.

As kids lose things quickly, I didn’t buy the awesome Apple Pencil for $99. Instead, I found a $33 Amazon-bought variant that works well.

Since then, I bought a two-pack of non-powered device pens at the salvage store for $10 that works too. And, I’m no longer worried about device pens being lost.

The charged pencil is going to grandma’s house.

Recap

So while the first week of iPad usage had loads of tears involved, we’re pretty stable now. I even get asked by the kids whether they can play or not though the device is available to them without my intervention.

I’ve found that mixing homework completion and play actually gets the school stuff done less stressfully in the same amount of time than being one-sided. 

Reading is more active because of kid friendlier options via Epic. Also, Peichi and I monitor Drusus’ homework via Seesaw. In which we also see their teacher’s feedback.

On the downside, I’ve introduced schedules and reminders to Drusus through the Calendar application. Yet, they’re ignored. I guess Drusus is like me of the early years.

I feel that Drusus and Jace can own their education choices and fun, consistently and fairly. 

Thank you, Apple, for getting the iPad and iOS right.

Drusus in class via Zoom

By Michael Cannon

Boundless Virgo water-rat, Drusus & Jace's remote dad, for @Axelerant's success, of conscious choices & simple living by kindness through curiosity & reflection

2 replies on “Device bound kids”

I love walking through the forest. Jace and Drusus look quite determined. So cute. Miss you guys. Feel free to drop a hello once in a while.

Love
Vivi

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