3 Ways to Help Your Family Balance Technology
By Kyle Breneman
I grew up in an average American family, but there was nothing average about the amount of time that I used technology! While growing up I spent hours and hours on computer games. I remember throughout middle school and high school spending most of my evenings on games such as World of Warcraft, and League of Legends; both of which are Massively Multiplayer Online Role (MMOR) playing games. Games like these incorporate a social aspect into the adventuring and quest aspect of play.
I would forgo homework, friends, and sometimes food just to be able to play with people that I didn’t even know. I’m sure the thought never crossed my mind that this technology could potentially be damaging to my development; all I knew is I liked the feeling that I had while playing.
My behavior was considered a bit rare a decade ago, but now it’s becoming all too common in this digital era. Technology has become abundant in every aspect of life, and it almost seems that the excessive use of our devices and media is now the everyday standard.
Statistics show that youth ages 8-18 now typically use technology for 7.5 per day. That adds up to 52.5 hours in one week (Kaiser Foundation, 2010). Let’s look at this another way. The average 16-year-old is awake for about 14.5 hours a day, which means that half their day is spent on some sort of technology (Statista, 2014).
We need to help our children understand that too much technology is not only unhealthy but in some cases dangerous for one’s mental health. Indeed, it is best that we all understand that too much time on technology can hamper rather than help brain functioning as well as intellectual and emotional health. We need to move away from the excessive use of our phones, computers, tablets and other devices and move into a future that balances the necessities of family, marriage, and life with technology.
3 Ways to Help Your Kids do Better:
1. Establish firm boundaries
Evaluate what you believe is right for your family regarding gaming, social media use, apps and websites, and be sure to include them in the conversation. Talking to them will be the surest way to understand their philosophy about tech. Try not to be overbearing. Listen to their views. The idea is to be a mentor rather than a dictator. If we mentor them in their interactions with technology, they will likely think of us as a good source to go to when problems arise and be more open to share about the technology they are using.
As for restricting usage, there are plenty of devices that have been created to help limit the amount of time that children and adults spend on their devices. For example, Disney produced the Disney Circle that helps aid parents in managing their child’s time on technology. Apps and other features have also been created to perform a similar feature for phones and tablets. Android and Apple have great, short tutorials online for setting restrictions on phones.
Other ideas might include trying to establish a time in the day in which you and your children go tech-free or it might even be beneficial to try a technology fast for a day. Try to find the best option for you and your family.
2. Increase face to face interactions
Media is vastly changing the way that children and teens are communicating with one another. They spend more time on media-based communication and not enough time in face-to-face conversation. Most children and teens lack the necessary skills to be able to hold a conversation in certain situations and usually shy away from such communication.
Face-to-face conversation is an important aspect of the social development of children and teens. That is why is it important to incorporate communication that is not mediated by texting, phone calls, or various social media platforms. Plan activities for you and your child that do not incorporate the use of technology but do include face to face time with your child. These activities can be as simple as doing chores together, taking a walk, or playing a board game. This valuable time spent together will enhance their ability to communicate and will help them to move away from antisocial tendencies caused by excessive-tech use.
3. Be a good role model
Take inventory! Examine your own technology use and that of your children.
We need to become more knowledgeable about the technology that we use and understand how to use it properly. Our proper use and knowledge will be transmitted to our children through our example. Inspect how you use technology and compare that to how your children use technology. You might be rubbing off on them, and not in a good way. If that is the case, then it’s time to learn more and adjust your media use.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much time do I spend on social media in a day?
- Is my phone always with me?
- When my children are talking to me, do they have my full attention or am I looking at a screen?
- Would I be uncomfortable if my children viewed my search history?
Be sure your technology use follows the same expectations you set for your children.
Family Media Plan
As technology grows, so too must we grow with it. It is not going away anytime soon, which means that we need to be better prepared to handle the technology of the future. Take time to talk to your family about technology use and implement a plan that practices proper online safety. Our families are important to us so let’s do all we can to keep them safe.
Looking for more ways on how to balance technology in your home? Check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child for great lessons on accountability, respect, empathy, and much more!
Also check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, for ideas on how to teach your children about media literacy, and for enjoyable activities to do.
Kyle Breneman is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. He hopes to get a Master’s degree in counseling and go onto become a Marriage and Family Therapist.
Disney. (n.d.). Circle with Disney. Retrieved from https://dpep.disney.com/circle-with-disney/
Kaiser Foundation. (2010). Generation M2: media in the lives of 8-to-18-year-olds [PDF File]. Retrieved from https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/8010.pdf
Statista. (2014). Awake time per day in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2014, by age and gender (in minutes per day). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/326907/awake-time-per-day-uk-by-age-and-gender/