Let’s face it – technology is not only part of our lives, it is a big part. If you’re a parent, it is an even bigger part. Between the many different social media platforms, devices, gaming systems, YouTube, and all the other risk factors you read about online it sometimes feels impossible to keep up, or to know what’s safe and isn’t, and for those that aren’t safe how to keep them locked down. Kids and teens are begging for iPods, Kindles, iPads, Xboxes, and anything else that’s bright and shiny and will occupy their attention and parents often wonder, how young is too young? Also, what counts in screen time? Does the computer count when they’re doing homework or educational games? How much is too much really?
At Real Life Counseling, we offer family counseling and work with parents to develop an effective plan for managing technology. We’ll also help fill you in on what’s out there to help, and what things to be aware of. We also work with youth to establish healthy technology habits. Spending 24/7 on social media may be fun, but often leaves us feeling empty because the connections we make online aren’t the kind of connections our emotional selves crave. Plus social media can be the breeding ground for insecurity. It is the perfect place to fall prey to the happy images and witty comments of everyone around you. Often people find themselves thinking “They’re so happy” or “I can’t post this – it isn’t funny enough.” And thoughts like that often lead to unhealthy thinking patterns about who we are, and what gives us value.
Here are a few reasons to consider updating your family’s technology policies.
- It interferes with the parent/child relationship
- It teaches kids what family values (entertainment vs connection)
- It helps everyone to know what they’re supposed to do and what the limits are
- It will generate a conversation about what your children use technology for
- It gives you an opportunity to check in on your own use of technology
Tips for Internet Success at Home
Lead by Example – It is hard for children to respect rules about limits to technology when parents are also glued to their phones. These days we can do anything with a phone. Search the web, play games, social media, read the news, actually call people, text, get directions. Smartphones provide a lot of convenience to parents. Children won’t understand why it is okay for you to have your phone at the dinner table when they can’t.
Also when a parent is locked into a phone or other device they are more likely to react to their child’s bids for connection and feel irritated that they have been interrupted. Parents who spend more time on their phones, react more harshly to their children.
Schedule Low-tech or No-tech Times – This gives a clear guide for when it is okay and not okay to use technology. It also creates an opportunity for the family to connect because nobody is distracted by sports scores, breaking news, Minecraft, Snapchat, or Youtube.
Many parents use technology as a way to calm their kids before bed, but the thing is, screens actually stimulate their brains in a way other activities, like reading, do not and make it harder for kids to go to sleep, and stay asleep.
Friend and Follow Your Child and Their Close Friends on ALL Forms of Social Media – They may not like it, but it is important for you to know what they post online. Then rather than telling them to take something down when you do not like what they post, talk to them about it and help them understand the risks of an online presence and teach them to post responsibly.
Ask Them to Show You What They’re Into Online – with genuine interest and curiosity. This isn’t so you can tell them to stop, it is so you can understand them better. Ask them what they like, and what they like about it. Ask them to tell you about what they consider okay and not okay in terms of web content, and help them draw that line if necessary.
Set Clear Logical Consequences if the Rules for Technology are Broken – Example: you observe your child posting pictures online that are too risqué for their age, you can tell them to remove the pictures, and have a conversation about safety and then ask them what the consequence should be if something like this happens again. Collaborate and agree, then follow through if it occurs again. If your child is too young for a conversation like this, they are too young to participate in social media.
Try to Limit Entertainment Screen Time to 2 Hours – There are many other activities that require a screen – reading, homework, research, etc. There are so many other things to do to occupy a child’s time to help them learn and grow. If your child is throwing tantrums due to a lack of screen time or seems fixated on it, I recommend reducing it further. Perhaps even a screen time detox is in order. Stretches of days or weeks without a screen can often help children rediscover all those toys they could not live without.
This list could keep going and going. If you or your family is interested in working with a counselor to help set better boundaries, identify areas where your own family policy could use fine-tuning, or notice your child “cannot live” without screens, give us a call or click the button below to get started. We would love to help you sort it out.