September 1, 2015
As news-consuming parents, we are inundated with research findings telling us exactly how many hours a day children should be spending on their devices; or how over exposure to screen time may take a toll on them down the road. While reading what the experts say makes sense, it’s easier said than done when reinforcing these rules – especially when you tend to break them yourself on a daily basis. The research presented to us can sometimes be rigid—all or nothing— propelling us to make a drastic change. The best way to access this info, is to interpret the research and pepper it in to your routine.
Honestly, I don’t know how parents coped without technology ‘back in the day’. I probably couldn’t function as well as a parent without it. For our family, it is integral to running the household. We rely heavily on group messaging, which is a lifesaver when it comes to scheduling and picking up the kids. I know it seems we might be missing out on human communication, but easy access to digital devices makes everything run like clockwork.
The reality is our devices have become an inseparable member of the family. However, now that we are in the midst of summer, I have made it a point to limit screen time and swap it out for real time human interaction. To anyone with kids spending more time surfing the Internet rather than surfing the waves, here are a few key tips I’ve learned from parenting in the digital age:
- Monkey see, Monkey do. My husband and I remind ourselves that we have to resist pulling out our phones at dinner. If our kids are ever going to take us seriously, they need to see that we hold ourselves to the same standard. The place I am most vulnerable to breaking the rules is the dinner table. We make it a priority to un-tether the device from our palm, and replace it with a fork and knife. There’s nothing worse than going to a restaurant and seeing a family basking in the glow of their screens, snap-chatting their meals until they are too cold to eat.
- Welcome technology into your life, don’t avoid it. Use its powers for good! We use a shared calendar to keep up with everyone’s events, clubs and chores. We all have our own laptops and numerous devices, from smartphones to tablets. My twelve year-old, Skai, uses her Dell tablet for her homework and more compact devices for instant messaging, games and photos. When it comes to choosing devices that fit the family dynamic, I love the Dell tablet for Skai, which acts as a 2-in-1 device for her to switch from schoolwork to play. Technology can be a mixed blessing–we can communicate in real-time, but some of our communication lacks that person-to-person touch.
- Technology is not a crutch. “What is the formula for area…it’s on the tip of my tongue…oh, I’ll just look it up.” This happens all. of. the. time. Instead of letting your kid rely on the answer machine that is Google, Cortana or Siri, try to encourage them to rely on their own brainpower, or grab a friend to figure out the answer. It has become the norm in our culture to cut corners with technology. Growing up, my dad bought encyclopedias for me to research and I still remember how they smelled and how the pages felt. We had human interaction and collaborative learning and worked on group projects as we studied together in libraries and study halls. Now, Skai conducts a Google hangout with her study partner, sharing PowerPoint screens.
- Monitor, don’t Mom-itor. My children are way more advanced than me in terms of technology, and I might never be able to keep up. For example, Skai is in the process of joining GirlUp with the United Nations and she can stay in contact with other girls her age around the world–from India to Portugal to South Africa. Today, kids have instant access to people and information from anywhere at the touch of a button. From a monitoring standpoint, I keep an eye on what they’re up to and make sure they’re doing productive work instead of mindlessly trolling or chatting. Instead of taking away their time, I try to shift their perspective on how to use technology as a way to become smarter and more globally connected. During the school year, Zoie, 7, and Bram, 5, know that on weekdays their devices are powered off, while Skai, 12, is allowed 2-3 hours a week. Of course, these rules become a little tougher to enforce with the arrival of summertime, where routines and schedules have the tendency to get placed on the back burner.
As a member of Dell’s Inside Circle and a heavy consumer of technology for work, I am always presented with new software and devices to make my life easier and more productive. It’s a two-way street when it comes to adapting to new technology and my children are constantly teaching me new ways to let technology improve my life. From Instagram to Snapchat, they are able tutors. They help me with the storytelling process–which is what major companies hire me for but the technology changes so fast I can’t keep up! Generation Z is my secret weapon.
As a parent living in this tech-saturated world, my role changes daily when it comes to controlling the amount of time we spend as a family using our devices. There’s a challenge finding the balance between regulating technology time and good ole’ human interaction without limiting my children’s personal freedom to explore. Technology is part of our lives, for the better in my book and like everything, moderation is important. We have to take all of the data we are given about how we are ruining our kids with technology and balance it with a common sense approach.
What are some of your tried and true tips when it comes to turning on the parental controls? Is there software for parental control that you really like? Join the conversation on Twitter using #Learnitshareit
Image Credit: Flickr/Brad Flickinger
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