Helping Parents, Teachers, and Kids Thrive
Parents and kids today are experiencing chronic emotional overwhelm at the hands of information overload. Worried about what’s best for our children, many parents have a love-hate relationship with modern technology.
We feel this essential tension between “Technology is so important; I don’t want my child left behind” and “Technology is invading our lives; I don’t want my child addicted to all these digital devices.”
So much of this seems beyond our control. We can’t keep up with the rapidly and ever-changing digital landscape – new devices, programs, apps, social media platforms. We can’t remember half of our own passwords, yet we’re supposed to keep track of our children’s passwords and monitor their usage and make sure they don’t get into any trouble.
The trouble is, they are always two steps ahead of us in knowing where to go, and how to get there, online. We don’t even know what we don’t know! It can be so confusing – and exhausting.
So what can we control? What can we do? Don’t despair – there is a way through this craziness.
Here are 5 ways to develop healthy digital habits in our children and ourselves.
We’re not talking totally forbidden fruit, here. We’re talking about having a mindful relationship with technology – one that helps us live with more ease, not dis-ease. Be honest with yourself about this, and with your children. Let your kids know you care enough to be thoughtful about how you use technology in your family.
When using a device, teach your child how to “Pause, Reflect, and Respond” – rather than impulsively reacting and mindlessly multi-tasking. Literally teach them how to pause and breathe, before clicking or sending.
Be clear about setting limits on total screen time for your kids every day: 1-2 hours is ideal, 3-4 may be realistic, 5 or more is toxic. But we can’t just set limits.
We must be able to monitor and enforce them. Otherwise, you’re not only allowing your kids to develop unhealthy habits – you’re teaching them that you don’t mean what you say. So be realistic. Set standards for “Time and Place” – when and where they’re allowed to be on devices, when and where they’re not. Also set standards for the quality of use – what they’re allowed to view or do, and what they’re not.
And be sure to provide alternative activities for when your kids are not on their devices. Some combination of both online and offline time, of both structured and unstructured activities, of family time and friend time and quiet solo time, of work time and play time – all are important to round out a healthy social diet for our children. Be sure to set some Time and Place for each of these components in your child’s day, or week, in whatever way works best for your family.
Do yourself and them a favor – make sure all devices (phones, tablets, computers) are charging overnight in YOUR bedroom (or kitchen, etc.), not theirs. Set “Visiting Hours” for digital devices in your home. Have “Digital-Free Zones” and times. Do this when your children are young and maintain it all the way until the day they leave your home.
Practicing these healthy digital habits will go a long way towards helping us all restore sanity to humanity – one child at a time.
Peter Montminy, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, loving husband and dad. He invites you to join in an ongoing conversation that seeks to restore sanity to humanity – one child at a time. Join us at www.AMindfulVillage.com.