Technology Tips for Parents
Technology keeps advancing, ever encroaching on family time and creating parenting headaches our parents never imagined. The beauty of having elementary age students in this age of technology is twofold – first, we as parents still control their access to technology and, second, we are still their primary source of factual information. While managing our children’s digital lives might seem daunting, here are five tips to make parenting in the digital age seem a bit less overwhelming.
Model positive media use. Put the device down. Don’t check your phone at every stoplight. Be transparent about your own technology use. As adults, we use technology to access information, to keep ourselves organized, to stay connected with others, and to decompress. When using a device, disclose what you are doing. Communicate with children about how you are using technology so that they see you aren’t always “playing” but are using it as a productivity tool. I often say, “Mommy is going to spend 15 minutes responding to work email, then we can read together.” Or “Candy Crush time!” Also, consider how you communicate about and model your own use of social media. If you are constantly checking and liking things on Facebook, documenting every moment with photographs, or over-sharing about your children’s accomplishments on Instagram, what message is that sending?
Establish a device parking lot. Set up a central place to charge devices. All devices, including Mom’s and Dad’s phones, should be parked here during family time and overnight. Keeping devices out of the bedroom will preserve quality of sleep for all family members, both children and adults.
Make #DeviceFreeDinner a priority. Ban digital devices from the dinner table. Use this time as an opportunity to connect with your children about their day and to share the ups and downs of your own day. Not only will this encourage engaging conversation, but it will also allow everyone to enjoy their food and be mindful of their eating habits.
Be prepared – have answers to questions you know are coming. You know the inevitable questions are right around the corner — “When can I have a phone?” or “Can I have an Instagram account?” Talk with your partner and have answers to these questions long before you think they will be asked. Your family values should dictate how and when your children will have access to technology. Resources, such as those provided by Common Sense, can help inform your decisions and answer some of your questions around parenting, media, and technology use. If you are prepared ahead of time with not only a “yes” or “no” but also with rationale as to why you made the decision, it will make parenting in the digital age a little more manageable.
Ask questions and keep the conversation going. Allow your children to be the teacher. Ask them to show you their latest favorite app or, for older children, what videos are trending on YouTube. Have informal conversations about how their friends are using technology. Watch shows together and discuss how the characters are using technology – both positively and negatively. And clearly communicate how your family values inform how both adults and children use technology in your household. These conversations should be regular and ongoing. Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to promote positive, healthy media use for everyone.