Lynn JataniaOur youngest is about to turn 14, and that means it’s time for the last member of our family to get her own cell phone.

We decided back when our oldest was heading off to high school that age 14, Grade 9, is cell phone time for our family. We’ve been happy with that decision – it seemed like the right time in terms of maturity, and also it became clear that having a phone to use in class at high school was beneficial and even expected.

Lynn JataniaI feel like I should knock wood when I say this, but it feels like maybe, someday, this lockdown might be over.

We’re still in rocky days as I write this, with active cases not dropping off as much as we all would like, and shops and attractions not as open as we would hope. But the vaccine is getting out there, albeit slowly, and some of the people we know have even received it already. Progress is being made, and we can start to dream of a time when life opens up again and we feel safer and more able to do the things we love to do.

Matthew JohnsonMeet Sasha. At age 8, she’s a real social butterfly, both online and off, and is very concerned with how the world sees her: she spends a lot of time making sure she looks good in photos online but doesn’t always think twice about who might see them. Violet is Sasha’s older sister and her polar opposite: she’s a hardcore gamer, and just as tough as her Level 65 Barbarian. Though she despairs of her sister sometimes, she’s also fiercely protective of her and will unleash her considerable wrath on anyone she thinks is picking on Sasha.

Cyber Choices is an interactive game designed to help students in grades 3 to 5 develop the skills and habits they need to make safe and responsible choices online. Cyber Choices lets students explore four different stories that cover key issues such as making good choices about their own and others’ personal information, dealing with cyberbullying (as both a target and a witness) and managing online conflict. 

Lynn JataniaOur older teens, aged 17 and 15, have smartphones. They aren’t big users of social media, but they do get messages from friends fairly often on Instagram, Hangouts and Discord.

Lynn JataniaThere are still a lot of unknowns about COVID-19, but for now at least, our province has started to open up a bit. Parks and beaches are open, most stores and malls are opening, and we’re even able to get haircuts again.

Photo of Lynn JataniaWe’re living in a strange and uncertain time. Already, as parents, we’re feeling our way to the right set of rules and guidelines for screens and social media. But now that we’re facing an extended time of quarantine and social distancing, the rules are bending and changing every day.

My two oldest kids started grades 10 and 11 in September. As usual, they took their smartphones with them the first day.

When they arrived home, I asked them how their classes had went, and they said that every single class had talked about the Ontario government’s new policy about cell phones in school – that is, that cell phones are to be used only for educational purposes, or health or special needs, during class time.

I am lucky enough to work from home and have a flexible work schedule, so my kids have always been stay-at-home kids in the summer. They have some daily chores and other special work to do over the summer, but in general they have a lot of free time on their hands.

I work from home, and I think that means my kids get more sick days than the average student. It’s pretty easy for them to convince me that they need a day of rest if they have a bit of a cough or a slight fever. I admit I’m probably too easily swayed and I do tend to cave in when they look up at me with big sad eyes from where they have swooned onto the couch.

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