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.

We have a few smartphone rules in our house: no phones after 9:30 p.m., no phones at the dinner table or other family events, and no phones in bedrooms.

When screens started being part of our daily lives – not just for work, but for entertainment, communication, and news – we parents had to do some serious thinking. What would the rules be? How would we govern these new devices? What were the best choices?

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