Q: 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?
A: Supervising your own children can be a challenge enough, but the truth is when other kids are in your home, you’ll also find yourself 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 console hard drives over to your house.
Thinking ahead is the best way to make confident decisions and manage expectations of tween guests. Before your next sleepover, scout camping trip, or youth over-night, follow these simple steps to avoid being caught off-guard.
Make a pro-active 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 video games and cell phones at home and get ready for a night of fun.”
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 technology, be ready with a quick reference to your list. “We don’t have time for video games because we’ve got three 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 cell or handhelds tucked away in their backpacks. Even if they’ve been tech-free so far, kids tend to take risks in groups and may reach for tech gadgets in the middle of the night. Once they’ve settled in for the night, collect everything and return it 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.