by Wendy Snyder – Positive Parenting Educator & Family Life Coach + Host of The Fresh Start Family Show
An entire generation of kids is growing up with smartphones, tablets, and other internet-enabled electronic devices. So there’s no doubt about it parents, technology is here to stay…so what if we made it our friend instead of our enemy.
With a goal of staying empowered & in control, we can teach our kids that technology can serve & support us, but also requires developing important life skills of self-regulation & healthy consumption.
Trust me, as a mom to a tween boy & teenage girl, I know it can be easy to demonize technology.
When we do that however, we are missing out on all the ways it can help us thrive & succeed in parenting, as well as the ways in which it can help our children flourish in life.
Here’s 6 tips for How to Make Parenting Easier with Technology.
Some suggestions are around setting strong limits & others are about building life skills & embracing abundant mindsets about tech, but all are great ideas to make technology healthy & helpful in your home (and for your kids out in the world too).
1. From Day One of Your Children’s Lives, Create a “No Interactive Screens in the Bedroom” Rule
We’ve done this from the beginning with both of our children (and recommend it to ALL of our clients at Fresh Start Family) & it’s worked incredibly well to set the tone early on that this is a non-negotiable rule.
According to a study conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, almost half of all children are taking digital devices to bed (43%) and one in four of these children report having sleep problems.
Experts in cyber safety estimate that these figures are conservative & I can say from my own experience with friends, extended family & students of Fresh Start Family Programs – that this is a major problem in many homes across the world.
Research has consistently shown us that screens (especially interactive ones) can have a really negative impact on children getting a full night’s rest) & put kids more at risk for developing symptoms of depression since many children who use interactive devices in their rooms often develop patterns of seclusiveness & disconnection.
As we discussed with Troomi co-founder Bill Brady – in this episode of The Fresh Start Family Show … to create more ease in your parenting walk – be clear about where your kids ARE allowed to use their favorite tablets, smartphones, or video games.
In addition, be sure you have a no tech in your bedroom rule too. Limits without modeling never work well, so your children will follow suit much easier if you show them that you practice what you preach.
2. Commit to Keeping Full Access Smartphones out of Your Kids’ Hands as Long as Possible
Let your kids know early on that your family has a solid plan to prolong the period of time in which they get to simply BE kids.
Remember those days when waiting for your mom who was a few minutes late to pick you up from elementary school meant you might climb a tree, or make a new friend, or invent a new handshake while bored? This kind of creativity is the ultimate gift of childhood, but one that so many kids across the world are missing out on when they get given a full access smart phone too young.
Choosing a kid-safe phone like Troomi, so you can contact your child, allow them to listen to music & offer a selection of parent approved apps is a great way to stay committed to maximizing your child’s mental health & safety.
Making a strong commitment like this early on makes parenting easier because there is no decision fatigue involved with WHEN & IF you will give in to your child’s desire & the world’s cultural norms only to later regret your decision once you see how difficult it is to externally manage your child’s access to the internet, use of social media apps, video games and dangerous content like porn & online gambling. (no thank you!)
Make a decision early on, let your child’s friend circle (parents) know your plan & move forward with confidence.
3. Make Tech Agreements a Way of Life
Take a break from barking commands & issuing compliance statements when it comes to technology & instead make strong, respectful, interactive agreements with your kids often.
As the first strategy in our signature 4 step firm & kind process…agreements are way different than compliance statements & create connection, buy in & understanding with your children.
Slow down and:
- educate your kids about WHY it’s important they turn their screens off by a certain time each night
- provide a deep explanation about why your family has such strong rules about waiting till high school to get a smart phone
- take time to have a full conversation with your son about your family values that make violent video games a “no” in your home
Doing this changes everything for children looking to feel powerful & belong.
For 3 years, I explained with grace & consistency to my tween daughter why we provided our kids with Troomi phones vs. iPhones.
My beautiful strong willed daughter continued to beg & do her best to convince me to change my mind, since 99% of her friends had one in elementary & middle school … but staying the course & explaining to her the WHY behind our agreement about “no smart phones till high school” helped her understand how the strong limit & agreement was designed to help her (not make her life hard).
She left our heart-felt conversations being fully educated about the research citing strong correlations between teen mental health challenges and smartphone /social media usage and also developed confidence that our firm rule was benefiting her as well (it wasn’t just a “because I said so” situation).
Your kids are much more likely to respect your family rules around technology when they have a solid understanding of how they relate to your family values & how your strong limits positively affect them too.
Create a consistent pattern of making agreements & then follow up with empathy, a reminder about the agreement & then offer choices … & watch parenting become much easier!
4. Retrain Your Brain to See Where Technology can Be Great for Your Children
As Randy Kulman, founder of Learning Works for Kids communicates to parents…popular video games like minecraft & roblox, can actually build executive functioning skills in kids, especially those who struggle with ADHD / ADD.
Skills like patience, perseverance, frustration tolerance, agility, emotional regulation & processing and creativity can all be strengthened through screen time.
Makes sense right?
I mean have you ever watched your kid work through a devastating loss on super mario bros, or die & lose all their stuff on minecraft? The ability to be resilient through disappointment is pretty amazing! As we teach in our Foundations Course, pausing to encourage our kids creates connection & belonging, which always works wonders to decrease misbehavior (win!).
Even learning to navigate a school ipad math program can teach kids about how to stay calm when anxious feelings arise, or fear about “getting it wrong” flare up.
Screens aren’t all that bad, but we as parents have to help our children become aware of what they ARE learning when they use digital devices of any kind.
Good practice involves asking your child before they play or use a digital device, “what might you practice or learn today?” and then brainstorming together some traits they may strengthen through their play.
Afterwards, follow up with a summary of all the great life skill muscles they built & congratulate / high five them on their growth.
5. Use “Bridging” Often to Help your Kids Transition from Screen Time into Another Activity
If you’re like most parents across the world, asking your kid to turn off his ipad when the timer goes off or hand you the tablet after they’ve been entrenched in a paw patrol episode, can feel scary. Kids can easily erupt into misbehavior or tantrums if we don’t act with care to assist them through the transition with grace & connection.
The act of bridging involves sitting with your child for 3-5 minutes before it’s time to turn off their device & asking them engaging questions.
- “Show me what you’re playing”
- “Wow, how did you get to that level”
- “I love that character, he’s so cute, what is his name?”.
This helps a child transition from being fully entrenched in the digital world, to being connected back to reality (and you!).
Once you’ve taken a few minutes to bridge, asking them to turn off the device, or plug in the phone will be much easier, promise!
6. Use Apps to Make You & Your Child’s Life Easier & to Help You Learn & Grow
I personally use a ton of apps that I think make my life as a parent easy and also recommend the usage of apps to my students across the world who are dealing with normal day to day parenting challenges like power struggles, discipline woes & self-regulation issues.
My fave apps to help ourselves & our kids include:
- Yapp – I use this app to have positive affirmations pop up on my phone throughout the day, as well as a prompt to take deep breaths often. Affirmations like “I am calm, patient & kind” and “I’m a fantastic mom who is doing a great job at motherhood” are two of my favorites that give me a quick lift on busy days.
- Calm – The meditations on this app are quick, easy & great for parents AND kids alike. Creating a daily practice of even 5 minutes a day can help us parents respond vs. react when misbehavior arises and introducing kids as early as possible to the power of calming their mind is a beautiful way to teach embodiment & self-regulation.
- Breathe, Think, Do Sesame – intended for parents and caregivers to use with their young kids (ages 2-5) to help teach skills such as problem-solving, self-control, planning, and task persistence. I love how engaging this is for toddlers & preschoolers!
- Pinwheel Breathing Games – A super fun app where kids blow into the headset to spin the pinwheel and make stars fly around. I love this app to give kids the actual practice it takes to learn how to use their breath during times of anger, frustration, hurt & anxiety.
- Moshi – Bedtimes are so much easier with this award-winning sleep & mindfulness app for kids. I recommend this app to boatloads of students who are going through a tough “my kid takes forever to go to bed” season.
- Positive Penguins – I love this app to help teach kids that feelings often arise from your thinking and if you challenge your negative thoughts successfully you may be able to see things in a more realistic and optimistic way (which helps you enjoy life as a kid even more AND be more influential when you want your little sister to not mess with your lego towers!).
- Parent Playbook – This new parent empowerment platform puts the wisdom of “the village” in the pockets of parents with the ability to save tips & inspirational messages by positive parenting educators & coaches, like me! Due to launch fall of 2023, this app will help parents feel supported with each unique child, no matter what challenges come their way.
To learn more about Fresh Start Family & positive parenting education by Wendy Snyder, download our Free Guide to Raising Strong Willed Kids with Integrity & listen to our podcast The Fresh Start Family Show today!
Study references https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-014-0176-x