According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 25% of teens describe themselves as “constantly connected” to the internet and 76% of teens use at least one social media site. Research conducted on behalf of the Family Online Safety Institute found that 58% of parents say their child personally has at least three of the following devices – desktop/laptop, video game console, cell phone/smart phone, tablet or iPad, MP3 player, or iPod with Wi-Fi. While our children cannot imagine a world without all these high-tech toys, many parents say they struggle to know how much screen time is too much screen time. With tech gifts from Christmas filling the house, parents can either learn how to control how much technology invades their family space or they can be controlled by it.
Here are some tips for parenting in the technological age:
1. Make a family media plan.
This should be a plan that works for your family values and parenting style. Technology will continue to be a huge part of daily living, but you can set parameters around how, when, where, and with whom your children can use it. Be clear about your expectations and consequences for not following them.
2. Treat media like you would any other aspect of your child’s life.
Know what platforms, software, and apps they’re using, where they’re going online, who their friends are both online and off, and what they’re watching on Netflix, Hulu, or television. Set limits like you would with anything else.
3. Be a good role model.
Limit your own technology usage. Turn off the television during meals. Put your phone down and interact. Engage in conversation and play instead of staring at a screen.
4. Create tech-free zones.
Keeping screens out of children’s bedrooms is a good thing. Set up recharging stations in a common area. Make family meal time a time of face-to-face interaction.
5. Avoid using technology as the go-to when you have nothing better to do.
The temptation is to jump on a screen when you are bored, stressed, upset, or have no other plans. Instead of planting your face in front of a screen, go outside and take a walk, keep word puzzles handy like word search, crossword, or Sudoku, or introduce board games to your children. Studies show all of these types of interactions are far better for your brain than screen time.
Technology usage will continue to increase. The best thing you can do for your children is teach them healthy boundaries, the benefits of interpersonal interaction, the importance of time away from technology, and how to keep themselves safe.