Kids today are exposed to so many different types of technology– whether it’s phones, tablets, or video games– and it can be hard for families to have a plan for the digital world. Read on for some helpful tips from Parent Technology Advocate Caleb Kinchlow on how to establish good technology habits for your family.
Parenting in the digital age of social media and online gaming is no easy task! On the one hand, screen time can offer benefits to kids, like learning apps. And what grandparents don’t appreciate FaceTime or video chats so they can talk with their family long-distance?
On the other hand, sometimes kids are learning the wrong kinds of things with their media use. Too much screen time can have some detrimental effects on social skills or even physical development. But removing these devices from our lives isn’t usually a realistic option. Many kids and teenagers legitimately need to use tech devices for their homework. Sometimes schools even provide students with laptops!
So how can we help our children develop good technology habits? Is there a right way to handle all of this? We asked Caleb Kinchlow about these issues. As a father and author of “Parents Kids and Technology: A Parents Guide to Raising Kids in the World of Technology” he’s got some great advice.
What Are Some of the Biggest Challenges for Families in Today’s Digital World?
The biggest challenge for families in the digital world has been the overabundance of information and access to content. Technology changes at such a rapid pace that by the time most parents learn about new technology and apps, their kids have already moved on to something else. Access to technology also means teens, in particular, are connecting with people their parents do not know.
What Are Some Practical Ways Families Can Establish Good Media Habits?
The simplest way is to first determine that “we as a family” are going to set rules for how we use technology in our home. Achieving good habits comes through clearly communicated goals and maintaining consistency around the action aligned to good habits. For example, if the goal is to increase communication a family might setup “no smart device zones” for a certain period of time, such as during dinner or family time. This allows everyone involved to have a clear understanding of the expectations and naturally will lend itself to better communication.
What Are Some Technology Tips for Blended Families— Both in Terms of Setting Shared Standards Across the Different Households and the Role of Stepparents or Grandparents in the Equation?
Enforcing expectations in another person’s home is nearly impossible. However, one way for blended families to work together is to focus on at least one common goal. An example of this would be your child’s safety, specifically when it comes to who they interact with online.
Many Parents and Grandparents Aren’t Nearly as Tech-Savvy as Their Kids and Teenagers. What Are Some Ways They Can Help Their Teens Navigate the Digital Landscape They Might Not Understand Themselves?
This question is one of the key reasons why I wrote the book Parents Kids and Technology: A Parents Guide to Raising Kids in the World of Technology. At the end of each chapter is a discussion guide that goes into more detail on how to address these concerns.
My number one suggestion comes from the idea that although technology changes principles do not. I encourage parents to have ongoing “courageous conversation” with their kids about different issues. They can talk about things like what to share online, pornography, bullying, etc, and if they or a person they know has experienced any of these issues. This also helps if you can relate a scenario that you experienced as a teen because the emotion does not change just merely the outlet for expressing it.
Number two is simply to ask questions. Have the kids teach you about what is going on by showing you different apps and features. Take a real interest in what they are doing. By doing this you are now a “student” which means you aren’t coming to them as if you know all of the answers and need their help. Let them teach you.
Number three is to do your research on hot topics and trends. Parents and grandparents need to be vigilant in finding resources to help them become educated on the topics of technology. Think of it this way, adults research what is happening in politics or hobbies. In the same way, I encourage them to take a few moments to research the primary tool that is influencing our kids.
How Can Families Help Kids and Teens Who Are Dealing with Technology Addiction?
Technology addiction is very much an area that many people battle with. In the most serious case, there are places for rehab. For your “average” tech addict the measures are not as extreme. Depending on how severe the case, slowly weaning them off the particular device is advised. The key is to help rewire the brainwhere there is no longer an association of dependency with a particular device or activity. All-technology access is not a necessity. Even though your teen might think so scrolling on Instagram is a life or death activity. Some things can also be used as a reward system for quality work or achieving a specific task. For example, if your teenager’s room is clean and the chores are completed, then you could give them more screen time for a job well done.The biggest challenge I see with parents when it comes to their kids and technology is the self-imposed sense of entitlement. Parents don’t have to give their kids unlimited online access! These young people are living under your roof and you are most likely paying for their device, therefore it’s your right to manage and set expectations in terms of the usage.
What Would You Say to Families Who Feel like They’ve Already Blown It When It Comes to Establishing Good Technology Habits? Is It Too Late to Start over with Your Kids?
When it comes to tech habits, it’s never too late to start over. The key is to think through the long terms results and reward the small victories. Set realistic timelines and visions for your family, “at the end of thirty days I want my family to…” Whenever your child succeeds that is an opportunity for you as a parent to celebrate yourself and affirm the hard work your kids are doing. This will take work and time. Remember, your kids will fail a couple of times but that is part of the “unlearning process”. Creating a new habit or breaking an addiction takes time, so start now and help them succeed.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all template for family technology use, the basic principles that Caleb articulates in his book are extremely helpful. Just staying aware of what your kids are doing online, and implementing consistent boundaries and limits for technology and social media use are two great ways to create a healthy atmosphere and to keep your family safe.
For more family technology tips, be sure to check out Caleb’s book!