Back to School with Devices in Hand

Recently, one of our Screen Sanity parents contacted us to seek advice on how to handle school-issued devices in her family’s home. With the fall season in full swing, we thought it timely to share our feedback in hopes of helping others who are sending kids back to school with more technology than ever.

“Earlier this month, as our family was organizing school supplies and back-to-school outfits, we were also preparing for another major milestone,” said the parent. “My fifth grader was receiving her first school-issued iPad. She’s no stranger to tablets, and I know she has used iPads in school before, but a device that she is responsible for—one that will come home daily in her backpack—feels a little different. At home, our iPad has a password that only my husband and I know, and when my daughter uses it, we have time and content boundaries that serve us well. I’m worried that the introduction of a new device (that we aren’t technically controlling) could lead to problems. How can we adjust to this additional technology in our lives?”

 Let’s just say we fully empathize with this parent’s concerns. Adding another device on top of the TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers we already have in our houses can be a bit overwhelming. We suggest setting some boundaries with your kids by discussing the following questions:

  • Where in the house will we use the device?  

We recommend using devices in common areas of your house and avoiding use in bedrooms or other unoccupied spaces where kids can be tempted to explore beyond your family’s boundaries.

  • Where in the house will we charge the device?

A common charging location establishes normalcy as kids grow and get their own personal devices. Avoid charging in bedrooms so kids aren’t on devices instead of sleeping. A consistent charging location also means there will be one less thing to search for during the hectic morning rush—and kids will show up to school with fully charged devices (which we know makes the teacher’s job easier!).

  • What apps do we agree can be used on the school device?

Consider putting some separation between how the school and home device are used. Playing Roblox might be perfectly fine on the home iPad but by keeping it off the school device, you help your child establish boundaries between study time and free time.

  • Do I have to ask permission to use the school device?

This one is tricky because kids generally don’t have to ask permission to do homework. But if they have to get permission to use the home iPad, they should get permission to use the school iPad.

On top of discussing boundaries with your child, consider contacting the teachers to voice your concerns or questions. Perhaps you want to know how much time they should be spending on the device, what apps and websites they will be accessing, or what privacy controls are in place. Knowing all of this will help prepare you for managing and monitoring the device at home.

 For further advice on speaking with your school about devices, we encourage you to read our friend Chris McKenna’s blog post titled 5 Tech Questions to Ask Every School Principal.

 And, if you want more info on parenting during the digital age, check out our comprehensive collection of Parent Guides. We’ve got your back!

Blog updated: August, 16, 2023