If you sometimes feel overwhelmed parenting children in the digital age, you’re not alone. Parenting and technology are a tough combination. I remember—and it hasn’t been that long ago—when most teens didn’t get personal smartphones until well into their high school years. And giving smartphones to younger kids was considered excessive.
These days, however, that trend has shifted. Of the high school freshmen I teach (13 and 14 year olds), I would estimate personal smartphone ownership at around 95%. And far more elementary aged kids have phones these days than ever before.
That, added to the near constant access to smart TVs, computers with internet access, and gaming consoles, our kids are bombarded with tech at every turn. Unfortunately, many have been sucked into a tech vortex that threatens to dominate their lives.
Maybe, as parents, you find yourself asking some of the same questions I have asked myself. Do any of these issues sound familiar?
· How do I raise well-adjusted, functional teens who know how to navigate a world inundated with digital influence?
· How will I know how much screen time is enough?
· Is 4 hours of screen time bad? More than 4 hours?
· How can I reduce my child’s screen addiction?
· How can we make our kids use less technology?
· What are some helpful tips for parents in the digital age?
If any of these concerns sound familiar, consider some of these tips for helping your kids decrease their tech consumption in the digital age.
Kids and Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age
Know Your Purpose
Help your kids understand that tech is a tool, only to be used with a specific purpose in mind. Think of a carpenter with a hammer in his tool belt. Although the hammer is essential for his success, he doesn’t carry the hammer in his hands all the time, ready to pound everything he sees. He only uses the hammer for specific purposes.
Likewise, help your kids develop the habit of only turning to tech with a specific purpose in mind. Do they have a homework assignment to complete? A specific activity to explore? A certain show to watch? Then encourage them to use the tech available to them.
But if they are only turning to tech out of habit to fill time or escape other responsibilities, encourage them to broaden their scope by exploring other tech-free activities. Remind them that tech is not a crutch to lean upon constantly. It’s a tool to help them accomplish certain aims.
And as part of using tech with a purpose, it’s helpful to encourage kids to determine their purpose before turning to tech. All too often, it’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of internet offerings if they don’t have a specific place to go. Help them make a habit of deciding where to go first.
Set Reasonable Boundaries
As with all things parenting, it’s your job to set reasonable boundaries for your kids regarding their tech use. Depending on their age and specific needs, help them determine how much screen time is enough. With smartphones like Troomi, you can help monitor these boundaries through tools like the Parent Portal.
You can also set physical boundaries, like where and when tech is allowed. For example, encourage your kids to use tech only in high-traffic areas and avoid tech in isolated areas like bedrooms. Make certain times of the day off-limits to tech, like during meals, when having face-to-face conversations with others, or late at night.
Likely, kids will try to push limits on tech use. But if you are firm but loving as you consider the right balance for tech use, your kids will thank you for it in the long run.
Take a Break from Tech
It might be a good idea to occasionally take breaks from tech. (This is something you could try along with your kids.) Mary E. Gomes, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Sonoma State University, regularly encourages her college classes to participate in tech-free weeks. Here are some of the results her students consistently report at the end of the experience.
· More awareness of current circumstances
· Improved sleep
· Deepened connections with others
· More productivity and learning
· An increased desire to break the habit of excessive tech use, even after the experience is complete
If you would like to join others for tech-free time, consider participating in Screen-Free Week, May 2–8, 2022, sponsored by screenfree.org.
Recognize Emotions and Patterns
Help your kids recognize certain emotions and patterns associated with excessive tech use. Encourage them to limit or avoid turning to their devices when they feel bored, lonely, angry, hungry, anxious, stressed, or tired. Often, our kids turn to their phones for a sense of comfort when experiencing strong emotions. Unfortunately, turning to tech without a purpose, especially when experiencing these strong emotions, can often do more harm than good.
When your kids feel vulnerable or susceptible, turning to outlets like social media can aggravate these feelings. It’s one of the reasons why kids should have less technology. When addressing the concerns surrounding social media, experts at Healthcorps.org explain how social media can harm. “The more likes we get, the better we tend to feel. But when this happens, we place the value of others’ opinions above our own. Letting other people determine your self-worth is a surefire way to destruct self-confidence and feel less-than-adequate.” If our kids are already feeling vulnerable, turning to social media is not the solution.
Make a Plan
Help your kids do more than just avoid tech. Rather, help them make a plan to fill their time with other good activities. When they feel tempted to spend (waste) time on tech, encourage them to try something new. Here are some ideas to get them started.
· Go for a walk
· Head to the gym
· Hang out with friends
· Write in a journal
· Try a new skill
· Develop a friendship
In many cases, our kids turn to tech because they’re bored. If that’s the case, help them find something constructive to do to fill the void that doesn’t require tech.
Most importantly, encourage open communication with your kids about their tech use. Help them understand why limiting their tech use is important to you. Come to a mutual understanding about expectations for appropriate tech use. Help them understand the relationship between trust and privilege when it comes to tech.
Something to Keep in Mind
We aren’t moving away from the digital age any time soon. So the solution is finding the appropriate balance between letting tech into our lives without being ruled by it. Help your kids know that tech can be an effective tool in their lives if they learn to take control and decrease their tech consumption. And if you’re looking for smart solutions to help your kids enjoy the benefits of tech without all the pitfalls that can lead to overuse, check out what Troomi has to offer today.