How I use the power of technology to help me as a parent during a pandemic
- Posted on December 3, 2020
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
As a full-time working parent of two elementary aged daughters, life is always hectic. Typically, I work 100% from my home office (with some travel for events and engagements). It’s beautiful, serene and the house is all mine. Ahhh … the bliss. When offices closed down, I was extremely grateful to know that I could continue my work with little maneuvering.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for were the changes that would be happening in “my office space.” The chaos of having two children ALWAYS home has taken a toll, taking certain steps has made it more manageable for my family.
Before I start, I want to preface a couple things. First, I may work for a tech company, but I certainly don’t identify as a technologist personally. Most of the tech tips I am going to share have been the result of collaboration with my technologist husband. Second, I realize these the tips and resources are not available to all. I recognize my privileges have offered me up boundless possibilities to create these solutions. The good news is that many of them are free or a one-time expense (like Amazon Echo) that can offer up a multitude of other benefits beyond parenting.
- Setting time limits – The first thing my husband and I did when setting up the kids’ iPads was putting strict time limits on their devices. Once the pandemic hit, we quickly realized we would have to raise the limits to make it through the working day. But don’t just stop at their tablet; you can set up screen time limits on all of the devices including their phone, gaming device and smart TV. Setting these limits allows the tech to step in as “the parent” to say no more.
- Earning screen time – After the first couple months of lockdown, we recognized too much screen time was making us all a little crazy. We decided to move to an “earn” model. Each day the girls had chores to do (like walk the dog, practice guitar, empty dishwasher, take a shower), and if they did them, they earned 60 minutes of screen time the next day. If they didn’t, no screen time the next day. I was very nervous that this strategy was going to blow up in our faces, but it works! There have been days where they opted NOT to do all of their chores because they actually wanted to work on their other non-screen projects, like building a new Lego set or turning the entire basement into a fort.
- Free online guitar lessons – My oldest is very creative and loves to perform. We were thrilled when we heard Fender was offering free online guitar lessons. She sets up her tablet on her “music stand” and follows along as the courses build up her skills each session.
- GPS Tracker – Not ready for your kids to have a cell phone yet, but ready to let them venture out? The @Jiobit is a pager-sized GPS tracker that connects to cell towers to offer precise tracking. You can clip it on and use the lock kit for extra pre-caution. For our girls, it’s a requirement that they wear it for every “recess” (we make them go outside for 15 minutes every two hours), so when they take the dog on a walk around the neighborhood or ride their bike to the park a few blocks away, we know exactly where they are using the app. If they have an emergency, they can push a button on it which alerts my husband and I via text and the app. The cost for the cell plan is approximately $7 per device per month.
- Password saver – Personally, we use LastPass (but I know there are many other similar sites), and it’s a life saver. We use a family plan allowing us to set up unique Password Saver accounts for each member of the household. When you pair this with unique user account profiles on your devices, it allows the kids to access their sites and apps with ease. Most importantly, for the love of security and all things data privacy, they don’t need to be “kid friendly” passwords like “dog123.” They can be complex, unique passwords for every site and every user.
- Shared digital calendar – Kids can view it on the Echo we keep in our main room, and if they can’t read, they know how to ask it to read to them. More importantly, we can make sure the adults have visibility into everything going on in the household. Both of our daughters have all of their school meetings programmed in as well so they can get the reminders have quick access to log-in info.
- Alexa – Alexa, can you home school my kids? Unfortunately, this is (mostly) still a no. But we do use our Amazon Alexa’s to keep our house humming. She makes house-wide announcements like “Dinner” or “Do I need to come down there? Or can you two sort this out?” Other favorite features include asking it to play podcasts during creative time or bedtime or adding items to our shopping list.
- Minecraft – My 6-year-old daughter can build a multi-dimensional world with beautiful architecture, giant rollercoasters, thriving animal population all wrapped in a thoughtfully designed landscape. Just don’t ask her to do her sight word flashcards.
- Meditation and Sleep casts – So this technology is more for me than my children, but a well-rested and mentally strong parent is good for all of us. Avanade, through our parent company Accenture, offers all employees access to Headspace premium and I’ve logged many of hours on this. Even if it is 2-minute breathing exercise between calls, these breaks bring me mental strength and the sleep casts are nearly impossible to not fall asleep to despite a racing mind.