It’s been an interesting year for families across the country, as they have been encouraged to spend more time indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With parents working from home offices and the kids out of school, the average time parents and children spend under one roof has increased dramatically!
Technology to the rescue!
We often rely on our internet and devices to keep us connected with friends, watch our favorite streaming services, and join the virtual worlds of video games. If you are the parent of a young child and work from a home office, who hasn’t had to pacify them with a screen to get some peace and quiet? I’ve done it! Who am I to judge?! Technology has become integral to our lives, and for better or worse, it’s essential to remember that it’s shaping our children’s lives. That’s a pretty heavy thought!
What can parents do?
For adults who had not grown up using technology or haven’t adapted to it over the last few decades, learning the ins and outs of their child’s devices, apps, and social networks can be daunting. But consider that as a parent who wants to place restrictions on a child, it can be challenging to do that effectively if the child or teen knows more about it or views the parent as lacking in authority on the topic. I encourage you to read through some of these ideas and check out the links for more information to be better equipped.
Set ground rules for your family
It’s easy to forget that electronics are not vital for children. Depending on the age of the child, maybe set the expectation that they get no screen time when they begin the day. From there, you can lay out some goals for your child to earn time. Perhaps it’s simple tasks like making their bed, cleaning off the dinner table, or placing their clothes in the hamper. With summertime here, they have lots of time!
An easy to implement rules is to remove screentime during meals. American families have been having fewer meals together over the last few decades. Now that life has slowed down a bit, these are great opportunities to have conversations that you might have otherwise missed.
Monitor and limit apps
A kid’s iPhone functions as a video game system, streaming device (for movies and television shows), texting, social network platform, video camera, internet browser, and oh yeah, almost forgot, a telephone! That’s a lot of functionality for a device that’s smaller than a book. Unless parents make a real effort, there is little to no accountability for the child. That’s not even assuming a child is up to no good, sometimes it’s not our children’s intention that we need to worry about.
Last week we shared how to limit the screen time for your kids on the most popular gaming platforms and mobile phones. This is a great way to keep your child accountable and give you some clues as to what they are playing or apps they are using.
Invest in a better router
Invest in a wireless router like those made by Plume or SonicWall that allows you to turn off access to the internet to specific devices on-demand or by using a schedule. It’s easier to get your kids to bed at 9 PM when the internet cuts out at 8:30 PM on the PlayStation 4. Additionally, you can protect your family from “adult” sites and malware with smarter content filtering services.
Value personal relationships over technology
It’s good to remember that our kids are watching us. Every parent has had the experience of walking into a room, and their child is just “zoned out” watching TV. It doesn’t feel great. Likewise, we must be careful not to have our faces glued to our phones while missing the human relationships that need us. If this is a concern for you, utilize the settings built into your iOS (App Limits) or Android smartphone to place usage limits on the apps that will help you.
Schedule family activities
Homes are increasingly getting larger, which means members have retreat areas in their houses. While this has it’s advantages, it also means that families are spending less time “really” together. If you feel this is the case, plan a family board game night in the living room, or set up a game of “Floor is Lava” throughout the house. These are activities that will be remembered and valued long after Fornite has been replaced by the next big thing.
Like it or not, we parents model values and behavior for our kids. When children and teens are not engaged with us, they are left to learn from others’ influences in the culture. Let’s manage our technology and it we will all stand to benefit.