With summer break in full swing, it is hard to figure out what to do all day! Today’s world is filled with technology, screens, and (as of 2014) more computers than humans! The technology wave came fast and it came strong, with little time for people to keep up with the rapidly changing technology available. While navigating this on our own has been challenging, for parents this has been one of the ultimate mysteries of parenthood. When should my child have a phone? How much time should I allow them? Will video games cause more violence in my child?
With all of these questions, and differing opinions among parents, teachers, doctors, etc. it can be hard to know the answers! While every situation is different, here are some tips for helping you navigate parenting when it comes to screens.
Set limits around technology
Kids thrive when given structure. Often times parents will give free range of technology or completely ban it, both of which causing issues for their children. It is important kids know how to handle screens and technology, because this is only growing in our world. However, we must also be sure to give them guidelines to help them learn at a time when they are ready. Since our brains are still developing in our teen years (arguably more than even infancy), its important there are rules and boundaries around the use of technology. Take time to educate yourself on different Apps and websites so you can set healthy limits.
Allow your kids to earn trust and time on their screens
It is important kids understand that screens are a privilege, not a right. We feel a great sense of pride when we have worked hard for something and finally earn it. Be intentional about giving your kid opportunities to earn trust and earn more screen time.
Monitor your child’s activity online
Even when your child has earned trust and time, it is important to monitor your child’s activity online. As I mentioned before, their brains are still developing and it is easy to make a mistake, trust someone they shouldn’t, or fall for a scam easier than adults may.
Set an example in the way you use your own screens
Children and teens are sponges (remember-a still developing brain), so what they see they will often do. While the above tips will help, this is the most imperative. Children and teens desire things to be fair and just, and when they see you saying one thing and doing another, they are more likely not to follow the boundaries set.
Plan time together as a family to spend screen free at least 1X per week
Lastly, plan time together as a family once a week (or more) to be screen free. Kids need quality time with their parents/guardians, and this will reinforce to them that they can have fun and enjoy the present moment without a screen! As a counselor who works with teens and kids, I can tell you that your kids want more quality time with you than you think.
If all of these tips have not helped and you are struggling to find balance with your teens and screens, consider involving a counselor to talk through screen addiction and help your child overcome these struggles.