An interesting change has occurred in recent years with the way I design homes. It has been brought on by my clients’ need to address an issue all parents face: kids internet safety at home.
When my clients come to me to discuss their wants, needs and long held dreams for their new house or renovation, the conversation at some point always turns to a question such as this: “Darren, how have your other clients dealt with how and where their kids have access to the internet in their homes?” It is an incredibly important consideration for families today.
After much thought I have come up with a solution, and the feedback from my clients has been great. To those of you wanting to build a new home or renovate, you have an opportunity to create a far safer environment, which also allows you to relax and go about your tasks at the same time.
Before getting into that, I must discuss the limits of what I can and can’t help with; I don’t have all the answers. Whether or not your kids have phones or ipads which are used at home, is not an issue I can address, this is up to the parents and often specific to your kids age. What I am dealing with is relevant to kids working on computers, which as discussed with my clients, allows control as to where kids can be online within the home. In the case of phones and ipads, that control is hard to achieve.
My approach begins with moving the desk out of a child’s bedroom to do their homework. Before we got caught in the World Wide Web, when we somehow lived without the Internet, a parents only worry about their child doing homework in their bedroom was: are they doing their work or mucking around? Now it’s about their online safety too.
I believe and my clients have stated the same, that we need to show children increasing levels of trust as they get older. With this respect and independence is learned. To look over your child’s shoulder every moment is just not possible, nor healthy.
Children need to be free of distraction too, to be able to concentrate; working at the kitchen table is not always effective. Parents also have to go about their tasks, yet need to feel their child is safe online, and this is achieved by the second part to my solution – “the open study”. You guessed it, a study without a door. However, the positioning of the study is the biggest key to the success of this approach, which I will cover in step 3, but when done correctly achieves the concept which is the basis of my idea, I call it: “possible supervision”. Just as it sounds, it is about giving them space, but not watching over their shoulder either, and it works by the theory that at any moment someone can walk past and will see what they are doing. They have a degree of independence and privacy, but at the same time it does not allow them to get into much trouble when they know at any moment someone could see them. It allows the parents to drop by to check in without any prior warning, and do it subtly too.
This will only work if the “open study” is downstairs, not to far from the living spaces so there is regular traffic moving by, but far enough so a TV or other noise going on in the living area does not impact them too much. A child then knows that others will be regularly moving by the open study in order to circulate around the house.
Everyone, is a winner.