Tuesday, June 21, 2016

OurPact, A Review

I let my kids use technology, such as computers, smart phones and tablets. In fact, not only do I let them, my husband and I recognize their value educationally- yes, even the 'non educational' games and shows on it. I think life is for learning and if having a tablet allows them to learn more about the world at large then it should be recognized as that and not shunned as a time waster and brain sucker. Between the four kids of mine there are three tablets regularly in use and I'm totally cool with that.

A big thing about letting my kids use their tablets is trust. Trust that when I say something is inappropriate/not good for them, they won't watch or play that. My kids have been very good about that. I've had my kids come to me and tell me that this YouTuber they were watching used an inappropriate word and therefore they won't be watching their shows anymore. I'm not worried about them sneaking things behind my back because I see how responsibly they act with the technology I allow them to use.

When I was contacted by OurPact, a company whose mission is to "empower parents to guide their children through the balanced use of technology", and in practice is an app that you install on your child's devices (Android or iOS) which allows the parents to manage them remotely, allowing them to turn on or off access to their children's devices with a push of a button, at first I had to think about whether what they do is in line with my values enough to promote it on my blog. You see, I support the thought behind it, that we should spend time with each other building memories, not just glued to technology, and that is something I try to teach my kids. But I tend to try and avoid head to head confrontations with my kids, making them do things my way by force, and instead aim to get them to see things my way and want to do what I'm saying instead of being forced into it. So the idea of installing a program onto their devices to force them to listen to me rather than them making the right choice didn't sit so well with me.

However, I discussed OurPact with my husband, and he made me realize quite a few different ways in which using OurPact would go hand in hand with my parenting style. On top of that, I also respect that not everyone has the same parenting style that I do, and even if I'd rather discuss things with my kids first instead of just enforcing rules, most parents do not have my parenting style exactly, and many parenting styles can benefit from use of OurPact.

At first I was thinking that I'd use this to turn off the devices from bed time until it was time to get up in the morning. My kids don't need so much sleep, I've found, but if they're really excited about something in the morning they'll wake up super early and not get as much sleep as they need. If they knew that their devices wouldn't be usable before 6 am they might be more willing to try to sleep a little more.
My husband also suggested that I use it to turn devices off when guests come over if my kids don't willingly put it aside when asked, because those are times we feel strongly about not using tech.

One thing I like though, as I checked out OurPact, is that while it can be used as a punishment, OurPact, as the name implies, is about trust and making agreements between parents and kids regarding their devices, and encourages discussions, negotiations, etc... regarding using their tech, and even has a downloadable family contract that they encourage every family to discuss and sign with their children. I think if just blocking devices is the only tool in your arsenal to teach your kids healthy screen time management, you're not doing it right, but having it there as a backup for when discussions, etc... don't work, is a boon.

Additionally, in the past short while, I realized that while I am not opposed to my children's use of their tablets, sometimes using their devices stops them from doing things that they'd otherwise be doing, as time often slips through your fingers as the digital world sucks you in. We decided as a family to make certain hours in our home tech free, recently. I do plan on discussing with my kids when it is time to put away their devices, but if they have a harder time listening, its nice to have this ability to turn off their access to their devices in my back pocket, a trump card of sorts...

Installing OurPact onto my children's tablets was very easy to do. Once I did that and synchronized their devices with my account, I now can set a schedule (daily or weekly) to turn on or off their access to the internet and third party apps. Alternatively, I can override the schedule in place and turn it on or off at the click of a button.

OurPact is free for parents and easy to use. If you think it is something that you'd find beneficial in your family, here's how you can download it to use.

See my disclaimer.

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