If you became a parent anytime in the past couple of decades, you’ve probably worried about the influence of tech on your child’s life. Where earlier generations of parents swore that too much TV would ruin their children’s eyes and too-loud music would damage their ears, you might be worried about the effects of too much screen time, too little exercise, age-inappropriate material and not enough in-person socialization. However, like any tool, phones and tablets can offer plenty of benefits-it’s just a matter of how you use them.
Moderation in Everything
Balance differs for every family and every child. Your children are growing up in an increasingly tech-heavy world, so banning it not only puts them at a disadvantage but can make it seem much more appealing. Some things to pay attention to are whether your child become miserable and bored if they don’t have access to their phone or if they are avoiding sleep or in-person communication in favor of screen time. Keep in mind as well that screen time varies a great deal. Some of it can be very interactive. Your child should still do other things, such as spending time with family and friends and getting exercise, but hours spent watching videos is not the same as hours spent on an interactive program that encourages creativity.
Model Responsible Behavior
You can’t insist that your child follow rules that you don’t follow. It’s important to set boundaries and stick to them. Again, this will vary among families, but a no phones at the table rule works for many. Keep in mind that is not just about modeling good behavior but also making sure that your children feel you are available for them. They should never have to compete with devices for your attention. You could also request that everyone puts their phone away when you want to have family time during a vacation or an outing. One of the toughest things you may have to do is set boundaries for both friends and your work about when and whether you will respond to them when you are off the clock. This teaches your children that they can set healthy boundaries as well.
All in the Family
One objection people often have to smartphones and other modern tech is that the devices can seem isolating, shutting away other people who are present, but this doesn’t have to happen. Whether you are using tablets, phones or other tech for leisure or seeking information, it doesn’t have to be done alone. For example, if you have kids headed for college, you can work with them to use apps and online comparison engines to find private student loans. Although many people only turn to private loans to pay for college once they have determined how much federal aid they are eligible for, if you have excellent credit and can cosign for your child, the interest rates on the private loans may be lower. If you have younger children, you can play educational games together or even race to see who can find a piece of information first. You can also work together to plan a vacation online or read about movies to choose for family night.