No one cares more about your child’s well-being and success than you do. In today’s digitally-fueled times, that means guiding him or her not just in the real world but in the always-on virtual one as well. Teach your children to use technology in a healthy way and pick up the skills and habits that will make them successful digital citizens. Here are a few helpful tips to managing your child’s screen time well.
1. AIM FOR BALANCE
2. WATCH FOR UNHEALTHY USAGE WARNING
The psychologist Jon Lasser, who co-wrote “Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World,” says parents should note when:
- Kids complain that they’re bored or unhappy when they don’t have access to technology
- Tantrums or harsh resistance occur when you set screen time limits
- Screen time interferes with sleep, school and face-to-face communication
Technology’s irresistible pull draws in parents as much as it does kids. We check our phones every hour, binge watch our favorite shows, and even engage in dangerous “distracted walking.” Children are likely to not only copy our behavior, but they also feel like they have to compete with devices for our attention.
Google and Apple are starting to address this growing concern about tech taking over our lives by adding new phone features such as time limits for specific apps and statistics on time spent on devices. While digital tools can certainly help, practicing and demonstrating mindful use of technology ourselves will be the best way to teach children the critical skill of unplugging.
Set boundaries for work time and family time. A few key times to stay unplugged include:
- When picking up or dropping children at school
- After coming home from work
- During meals
- During outings
Know when you need to be plugged in and when you don’t. Don’t make your children compete with technology for your attention. Also it’s always best to follow common sense rules around tech like never texting while driving and avoiding oversharing on social media.
Remember to use media the way you want your children to. Practice what you preach instead of the hypocritical “do as I say not what I do” approach, and you will emulate the habits you want your children to pick up.
3. SET UP CHILD ACCOUNTS
Kids may need to use a computer for homework. The built-in parental controls in Windows (called Microsoft Family) and macOS (called Parental Controls in system preferences) can help you set time limits and also limit apps and web usage.
Restrict their profiles to limit who can view their information or contact them.
Talk to your children about privacy and online security, repeat the conversation as much as needed.
4. ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY
Technology has a lot to offer children, but the apps you choose to expose your kids to make a difference. If your child is a tinkerer and likes to build things, you could try:
5. WATCH OUT FOR CYBER BULLYING
It’s as prevalent as actual bullying at school. Teach your kids to recognize when and if they are being bullied and notify an adult. Constant information about standing up to bullies and the importance of supporting anyone else being bullied is crucial.
6. INVOLVE THEM
Your family likely discusses important decisions that affect the group day-to-day, such as who’s responsible for doing the dishes and where you should go for your next holiday. Technology use should take the same type of planning, so everyone’s on board with the same expectations.
Set rules as a family. When you set limits with children, Dr. Lasser says, kids can start learning how to self-regulate and know when screen time is interfering too much with the rest of their lives. As a bonus, he adds: “Kids are also less likely to balk at limits if they have a role in creating and establishing them.”