Whether to use parental control for a 10 year old

My daughter has her own laptop and for a while, I’ve told her that she can use up to 30 minutes of screen time on her laptop, my iPad or any electronic devices.

Recently while chatting with a family friend, he mentioned that he believes we should embrace technology in schools and if used properly for education it could be very powerful.  One example he gave was using a tablet or laptop during class and have students answer questions in real time and then the teacher gets immediate feedback about how many students understood, or whether students mis-understood what was taught right then.

Also I’ve noticed that when C. is limited to 30 minutes of screen time, the time becomes coveted forbidden activity.  It becomes a precious time that she has to choose between watching her favorite show (pokemon), Steve Spangler science, checking her school email, checking wiki for school, writing a story/poem or learning programming with me.  And those are not all equal.  My goal is to have her use the computer wisely and use it as a tool for learning as well as entertainment.

The computer also becomes a negative point of contention.

So I looked into various parental control software and saw that the one which came with the Apple laptop has some simple controls for white listing and black listing web sites and simple time control.   So I turned it on for her account.  I talked with her that the control for website is for her to accidentally stumbling on content that was inappropriate or searching for ‘pokemon’ but finding something else that was not appropriate for kids.  The goal is not to prevent her, but to understand as a family what sites she is using.

As for the time control, the purpose is not to limit her time on the computer, but for my wife (future) to understand what is she spending time doing.  If she used an entire hour on Pokemon, then that should be enough screen time.  If she spent 1/2 on Pokemon, and 1/2 hour typing up a creative story, then absolutely, more time is fine.  It’s a also a reminder if I don’t know what she did on the computer to pay attention.

I’ve also started to let her use the computer during the morning if she has finished brushing her teeth, hair, feed the rabbit, and it’s a positive reenforcement for good habits.  Between school, homework, showering, she doesn’t really have that much free time anyways to be on the computer.  So 1 hour during the weekdays seem be to perfectly fine.

The end goal is for C. to browse age appropriate web sites, use her time on the computer for both entertainment, learning and creative endeavors.  A secondary goal is for the adults in her life know what is reading and participate actively in talking about the content she is reading.

Tony Tam (Li Zhi)

Senior Principal Engineer @ Splunk, ImpactfulEngineer.org & SFBadminton.org