Welcome back to our series focusing on the growing difficulty of balancing our tech lives around our children. In Part 1 and Part 2 of the series we have looked at my personal experience with the having tech around my daughter, as well as research and interviews surrounding the effects our children are experiencing as a result of our tech addictions.
Addiction feels like a strong word, and it is. Researchers are still deciding what exactly it looks like to be “addicted” to technology. However, it is quite obvious that most people today display obsessive behavior when it comes to their digital devices, myself included. There is this underlying need to have our phone in hand almost twenty-four hours a day. And for many of us with young children, this is how they have seen us their entire lives. From their young eyes, it’s almost as if it’s an extension of our bodies. I’m not sure about you, but that thought bothers me a bit.
As we discussed in our previous posts, technology is a reality of our time. And of course, it is not all bad. In fact, technology plays a huge part in our children’s growth. With the help of educational videos, my two-year old daughter solidly knows every color, can count to ten, and she mastered the body parts “head, shoulders, knees and toes” before she could even speak. But as she is learning to communicate in fuller sentences she also knows how to say “we need to charge the phone”. She knows how to swipe through pictures and videos, and can navigate an iPhone with ease. Things that I never imagined her comprehending at such a young age.
So what is the take-away?
What is the practical application for us all? Below I have listed some ideas and challenges for all of us. Parents with children of all ages can benefit from a shift in technology use, and more balance. The more we are willing to release our own addictive behaviors, the more likely they will be to do the same. Some things are not realistic for each parent. However, I am confident that we can all choose one place in our lives to work on this let go of digital obsession.
Be a Role Model:
Do you carry your phone room to room (even the bathroom), when you do not absolutely need it? They see that, put it down.
Is it the first thing you spend time with in the morning, and the last think you see before you go to sleep at night? They see that, put it down.
Be mindful. When you do pick it up, ask yourself “why am I looking at my phone?” If you don’t have a good reason, put it down.
Create No-Device Zones:
This may be the toughest one. Choosing strict no device zones or times of day, and following through yourself. Perhaps the most important time to disconnect as a family is at dinner time. Set all family devices in another room and choose to connect only with each other. In addition, many experts strongly suggest making the car a no-device zone.
This could prove to be very painful during long car rides, but it is also a time that families have been connecting for decades. It’s a space where you can be with one another and really share life together. If the car ride is extra-long, try to designate certain hours that are device time, and certain hours that are family time.
The last feel impossible for most, the bedroom. If your child sees you get into bed every night, face glowing from your phone, they are going to do the exact same thing. Choose a time during the evening that is devoted to each person having their time on their device. But when it’s time for bed plug in your phone across the room, or better yet in another room, and go to bed.
Be Clear About Your Use:
Children do not always understand why we are on our phones. Sometimes we honestly have an urgent call to make, or message to send. On certain days we may absolutely need to send an email out before noon, and that’s okay. But make it clear to your child why you are on your device. For younger children they may see your device use as just something fun, like watching videos or playing games. For teens they may assume that you’re just scrolling social media or chatting with a friend. Narrate your use to your children. Tell them what you are doing, how long it will take you, and follow through.
Validate Your Child’s Need for Attention:
The harsh reality in these studies were highlighted when children expressed the feeling of reaching out to their parents, and the parents either ignores them or answers without even looking up from their device. We must remember through it all to validate our children. Show them their worth and lower the device, make eye contact and engage. We may be in a very important conversation on our phones, however, we can treat the situation just as we would if the other person in our conversation was present. During those times we should stop for a moment, look our child in the eyes and ask them to wait if it is not urgent. We continually ask respect from our children, so we must be willing to give it back to them.
Technology is an amazing thing. We have all seen our children grow leaps and bounds thanks to its advancement. We are better connected and can create in ways like never before. And for many of us, technology pays the bills. Being on our devices, pays our child’s tuition and allows them to join that extra-curricular activity. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have to find areas of give and take. If we want to see a healthy balance in our child, we have to show healthy balance in our own lives. Perhaps it’s when you first get home from work and school you set aside time to study together or go outside. Maybe it’s turning off the TV during dinner and talking about your day. Maybe it’s a family walk after dinner, where you leave your devices at home, even if there may be a good moment for a family selfie.
Show your child that you do not need a device in hand at every waking moment. They are watching us. They are studying us. They will inevitably mimic us. It’s not easy, but challenge yourself to be the adult you want them to be.
Do you want to see your child willingly put down their device and read a book?
So do I.
Let’s put down our own devices, and pick up a book.
Contributed by: Jade Rhoden