Teaching Tech Limits

Heads down. This is what parents look like to kids.

Heads down. This is what parents look like to kids.

If you ask most adults, they’re concerned about kids and the amount of time they spend on screens. That’s definitely important, but have you asked kids lately how they feel about their parents’ use of screens?

Too often, this is what children see: Heads down. Attention focused on the device. Parents lost in the netherworld of their phone.

We’re constantly modeling sensible tech use to children (or not such sensible tech use). Here’s what they’re learning when we over-use phones:

  • The online screen world is more important and fascinating than this one.
  • It’s OK to interrupt people in real-life all the time.
  • I have to really work to get my parent’s or another adult’s attention.
  • Balance? Boundaries? Manners? What are those?

When it comes to parenting, we like to focus on how to improve the kids’ behaviors. It’s a little harder to focus on our own. Smartphones have swept over our generation like a tidal wave. In all the excitement and flurry we’ve often forgotten to find balance.

Just like modeling good nutrition, parents must demonstrate healthy tech use.

Our daily habits matter. Kids are always watching and jumping to their own conclusions. “I thought grown-ups were just playing video games all day,” said one boy. That’s what he likes to do with a screen, so he assumed that’s what all the grown-ups around him were doing.

Try setting up some new healthy screen habits.

  • Announce what you’re doing. “I’m checking the weather.” “I’m sending a message to Daddy.” The screen is a vast portal to anywhere. Kids and others around you don’t know what you’re up to, so it’s polite to let them know.
  • Make pick-up and drop-off time a no-screen time. Finish your phone call before picking up your child from school. Enter the building fully present. Meetings and greetings are vital social times.
  • Set aside sacred times and spaces. Set family rules to keep mealtimes, bedtimes and bef0re-bed times screen-free. Make sure adults stick to it.
  • Discipline yourself and your phone. No, you don’t need it all the time. Remember it’s just a tool. You’re in charge of it; it’s not in charge of you.

If your family struggles with phone use, try my chapters devoted to technology in “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide.” Here’s an interesting article about overdoing tech and what it does to us: “I Used to be a Human Being” and NPR’s “For Children’s Sake.”

Remember, the children are always watching. We need to show them that real life is the most fascinating thing of all.

How do you see adult phone use impacting children in your life? What isĀ  your relationship with technology? Who’s on top, you or your phone?

UpTheSlide final cover

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2 Responses to Teaching Tech Limits

  1. Great post. I fear this addiction to technology will be the downfall of western civilization… Well…not really, but it boggles my mind how many people prefer machines to humans these days.

    I use a computer all day, but do NOT like using my smartphone. I don’t want anyone to have the number so no one will feel entitled to call me 24/7. Tech is a tool, but to rely on only one tool is foolhardy. What on Earth will we do if a terrorist attack wipes out the electric grid?

    My Little Brother is nine and seems indifferent to technology other than liking to play “educational” video games at the library. I assume he has a Game Boy or similar at home, but thankfully he never drags it along when we have time together. I rarely use my phone while with him and have only called his mother or taken a few photos with it. I hope to show him that life with technology used sparingly is possible and (more?) enjoyable than life glued to a screen.

  2. Another thing that’s slowly disappearing is the reading of “real” books — children nowadays are so engrossed with social media and in using their gadgets.

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