At my son’s birthday sleepover, several kids were unhappy when I collected their cell phones after finding them texting after midnight. Was I out of line?
Supervising your own children can be challenge enough, but the truth is when other kids are in your home, you’re responsible for their behavior and use of technology. Figuring out just where to draw the line can be tricky, depending on personalities, ages and the environment.
For tweens especially, lines can be blurry as they begin to gain tech privileges and get a feel for boundaries. Plus, their social lives often revolve around technology, and tween guests may bring cell phones, laptops, handheld video games and even entire video game consoles over to your house.
Thinking ahead is the best way to make confident decisions and manage the expectations of tween guests. Before your next sleepover, scout camping trip or youth overnight, follow these simple steps to avoid being caught off guard:
Make a proactive plea. When inviting guests, include a brief statement about the activities planned for the evening and a request to leave tech doodads at home: “We’ll be eating pizza, playing flashlight tag and watching a movie. Please leave valuables, video games and cell phones safely at home and get ready for a great night.”
Plan tech-proof activities. Requests to access YouTube or play video games will eventually come up during the get-together, so be ready with a few fun alternatives to keep kids on course-glow sticks, crafts, ice cream sundae supplies, fort-making materials and spa accessories-and make a list so the group knows what’s coming next. When kids start to beg for some technology, be ready with a quick reference to your list: “We don’t have time for video games because we’ve got four more activities to get done before tomorrow!”
Collect gadgets before bed. Despite your request to leave tech items at home, kids at the gathering may still have a phone, iTouch or handheld video game tucked discreetly in their backpacks. Even if they’ve been tech-free so far, kids tend to take risks in groups and may reach for those tech gadgets in the middle of the night. Once they’ve settled in for the evening, collect all technology and return it with a surprise the next morning-a cosmetic bag for girls or trading cards for boys: “Put your cell phones and video games in the basket-they will be waiting for you along with something special when you wake up in the morning.”
Apply your family rules. When in doubt, your house rules rule. If you don’t allow kids to talk on cell phones in their bedrooms, the same rule should apply during the party. If you don’t allow T-rated games, stick to your rule even when a friend brings over a game that everyone is dying to play: “We only allow games rated for everyone-why don’t you choose the first game of the night from our collection.”