Helping Our Kids Overcome Tech Addiction
By Katelyn King
Technology helps us connect in ways that never would have been possible even just a decade ago. There is so much good that comes from all these advances in technology, but balance and moderation is important. Our families, parents included, are quickly becoming addicted.
And most adults and kids are not managing their time properly. “Because people can’t handle the allurements that come with all the advancements of society, they have developed unhealthy and addictive triggers around technology” (Hardy, 2017).
We are not sleeping well. We are overstimulated. We are worrying about what we might be missing in the cyber world and are often glued to social media or impulsively opening apps without real thought or intent. In fact, kids are spending on average of 9 hours a day on social media (Wallace, 2015). None of us seem to be taking time to relax, rest, and reset.
Worse, most of us are losing true connection in our lives. We don’t seem to have the close friends we used to, and our kids are getting a bit too comfortable being at home, “alone” with their phones. How would you fare if you lost your phone? How would your child react to losing their phone? Would they feel as if a limb or piece of them were missing?
So as parents how can we help? What can we do to keep our children from losing control? We want our children to enjoy the advantages of technology but also to be deliberate in their actions with tech.
Here are 8 ways we can help kids develop healthier tech habits:
1) Switch up your child’s routine
If you are noticing there is a time of day where technology is becoming a time waster, switch up the routine. For example, if at 4 pm every day your daughter is spending an hour on Instagram, at 4:30 have her help you prep dinner or fold laundry and use that time to talk about her day.
2) Have regularly scheduled screen-free time
Too much screen can overstimulate the brain. On the other hand, screen-free time can help us recharge. Every family has different schedules, so this set time will vary for everyone. The point is to be developing healthy relationships with your children and your children with one another. In my family when my husband gets home from work, we have dinner as a family, no TV or phones. Then we spend time together without using technology. Some days that’s going outside, talking, or playing a game inside. After that hour, my husband may play a video game with our son, or we will use Spotify to have music while we clean. Technology is not bad; it just needs to be balanced and used well.
3) Help them use tech for good
When we spend too much time mindlessly scrolling through social media, we are not learning, growing, or achieving like we could. This is why we need to sit down and help our children learn to be mindful when they are using technology. We want them to learn, make a difference, and find joy in work. We also want to teach them to see the needs of others, rather than only focusing on themselves, and technology is a great way to practice that skill.
For example, on social media it might be tempting to just gloss over pictures of friends, but we can teach them to use the opportunity to compliment and uplift their peers. Or if they have a specific interest, like animals or the environment, we can show them how to set up a petition or service project online to help make a difference. Here is a great article that lists 10 ways children can use technology for good.
4) Help them find healthy extracurricular activities
Activities such as sports, music, dance, scouting, or art create opportunities for our kids to interact with peers without technology. This is healthy. Our children need to know how to have healthy relationships offline–sports, art classes, and any activities where they can interact with others in a stimulating environment will help them do this. Let them try new things, and help them find something they like!
5) Set time limits on devices
All of us have experienced getting side tracked online and not realizing how much time has actually passed. There is so much we can do on our devices, and it can be easy to spend a little too much time on something. When we give our children screen time, we should give them a limit. This limit will be different in every family. The important thing is you hold your children accountable and help them manage their time. Maybe your son finished his homework, and you tell him he can play a video game for 30 minutes, or your daughter just finished helping you around the house, and you give her 30 minutes of social media time.
Here is a great article on creating media guideline for your family that can help you do more than just set time limits for your children.
6) Have a “no tech in bedrooms” policy
This is something that cannot be stressed enough. There are so many reasons this is a must. First, when your kids are alone in their bedroom, that is where they will not be monitored. They have a greater chance of viewing porn or reading things you might feel are not appropriate. You will not be able to monitor their time usage either.
On another note, tech in the bedroom is horrible for our sleep. Did you know smartphones, laptops, tablets, and TVs emit a blue light that causes our brains to interpret it as daylight? This causes overstimulation and makes it harder to fall asleep. Technology in the bedroom can make it difficult to get restful sleep and can even cause insomnia. This is a helpful article to learn more about the effects of technology in our rooms at night.
7) Plan tech-free activities
Our children need to know even though technology is beneficial in so many ways, there is more in life to enjoy. Make sure you are helping your kids see the world around them. Go on a picnic or hike. Go to a sporting event or a play. Find somewhere you can serve together in your community.
Here is an awesome article with ways to be connected to others without a screen.
8) Be the example
You cannot tell your child to put down the phone, go outside, or talk to a friend face-to-face if you don’t. Our children need to see us having time away from technology. They also need to see that when we are using technology, we are not just constantly wasting time.
We can live in a technology run world without being addicted. We just need to be aware and to not let it take over our lives. Try these tips! You can strengthen your family relationships, and help your children know how to be a good friend and contributor to society. Start setting goals and making changes.
For more ideas and great conversation starters, check out our read-aloud children’s book, Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Tech for Good.
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Katelyn King is a wife and mother of two children. She is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies, and she is an advocate for parent child relationships.
Aratoon, K. (2015, December 18). Is Your Smartphone Ruining Your Sleep? Retrieved October 22, 2017, from https://sleep.org/articles/is-your-smartphone-ruining-your-sleep/
Hardy, B. (2017, October 30). Free Will And Willpower Are Becoming A Thing Of The Past. Here’s What You Can Do About It. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://thoughtcatalog.com/benjamin-hardy/2017/10/free-will-and-willpower-are-becoming-a-thing-of-the-past-heres-what-you-can-do-about-it/
Wallace, K. (2015, November 03). Teens spend 9 hours a day using media, report says. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/index.html