It’s beginning to feel like this is an age-old question~ How much technology is too much for our kids? Should we constantly regulate their content too? These are some of the most asked and wondered about issues in our modern age. Is there a single and perfect answer to these questions? I don’t believe there is. But there are things to consider when answering this for your own kids and your family.
Among the first things to consider is- what our job as a parent is as it relates to kids and their technology? Is it to control the content they’re viewing and playing with? Is it to regulate how much time they spend on their devices? If your knee-jerk reaction is to answer “YES!” on both counts—- are you having much success with either? It can be challenging to know what course of action to take, especially since kids are all different.
Here are some tips and questions to help you find the path of least resistance regarding your kids and their technology. The order of importance is up to you…
- Acknowledge that your kids love their devices and technology and there are benefits in their exploration. Take a deep breath and try not to feel like technology is the enemy.
- Tap into your internal guidance before setting rules and timelines. How does it feel to control all the details? Are you willing to allow your child to use their internal guidance to choose their content and timelines for themselves? What would happen if you did?
- Set initial guidelines and timelines for your kids-if that’s what feels good to you, but keep the dialogue open and be willing to negotiate. Kids learn better communication skills when you’re willing to hear them out and there is discussion. They will also learn how to express themselves and negotiate when they are allowed to do so in a safe family environment.
- Encourage your kids to notice how they’re feeling regarding how much time they spend on their devices and to notice how they feel about the content they’re viewing. Are they exhilarated and energized after playing certain games or are they upset by them? Do they burn out after an hour but won’t acknowledge it? Or, does it seem like your child could sit for weeks at their games? The important thing is to encourage your child to pay attention to how their games and devices make them feel.
- Ask your child questions—such as, “why do you like that particular game?” “What, if anything, do you feel you learned from it?” The point in asking questions is for your child to be aware of their motivations. Resist the temptation to answer for them or judge the answer they give you.
- Encourage balance. If your child is only interested in a certain device with certain games, negotiate options in games and devices that are different than what they use everyday.
- Notice how you are using technology as it relates to your child. It can be tempting to use their devices as a babysitter. I’m not saying never do this, but it can become more difficult to help them learn balance if a device is continually put in front of them as a distraction.
The truth is, we won’t always see the benefits our children are getting and what they’re learning from their favorite devices and games. It’s often by trial and error that each of us finds our own balance. It’s important to guide and allow our children to find theirs.
More important than trying to regulate exactly how much time they spend on their devices and worrying about the single-mindedness of the content- is to help your child be aware of how what they’re doing makes them feel. Paying attention to their feelings will come to serve your child in every subject in his or her lives. The awareness of how something makes your child feel is crucial in helping them discern what over time—serves them best.