7 Tips for Modeling Balanced Tech Use in Your Home

r201210101132ea5982fd1d7ebbb89091ee2c693143cbParents today struggle with the ongoing challenge of managing their technology use while setting a strong example for their children. It’s a juggling act for parents to role model tech moderation while remaining accountable to work and other commitments through technology.

Parents need to be realistic. If you set tech free times and zones for after work and school hours, sometimes children may not get that distinction when they see their parents on the computer for hours at a time. Many working parents have the flexibility to work from home, which means being plugged in a lot in front of children. This can send the message that it’s OK to use tech more than any parent would want their child to.

The paradox of screen management — do as I say, not as I do — is a burning conflict for many parents today. Even parents who are not making their livelihood on technology use it for necessary non-entertainment purposes. Many parents spend hours online signing up their children for activities, finding camps and checking grades and homework online. If you’re not a speed demon on the keyboard, it may seem like you’re dawdling or even enjoy being glued to the computer when nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are seven tips for role modeling appropriate screen use while living in a tech saturated world.

Be transparent. If you are using tech for the purposes that most parents do such as work or registering your child for their next activity, provide your children with a reality check. You are not on YouTube or gaming or even posting. You’re bringing home the bacon or making sure they don’t get shut out of their favorite sport. Role model and even promote using technology for work and constructive, non-entertainment purposes.

Be realistic. Tech use is one of many forms of multitasking. Many parents are multi-taskers and manage multiple roles of parenting, work and household responsibilities with a typical 21st century, 24/7 sense of urgency. Parents often juggle and prioritize in the moment, as opposed to following a strict online/offline parenting model. Recognize that it’s not just screens that interfere with parents’ ability to be present for children today.

Have tech free times and zones. Make the work day end eventually. Have sacred times when no one is using a device or answering the phone. Transitions during family meals and activities, in the morning and after a certain hour at night are examples of important times to be tech free.

Respond to high need moments. I’ve been late for work and I haven’t responded to important calls on the rare occasion that my child is having a “high need moment.” These are unpredictable moments where children “need” a parent to stop everything and be 100 percent devoted to helping them through their crisis. These crises occur less than five times a year for a typical child. They are the times when a child has just been rejected by their best friend or they didn’t make the team they wanted or they didn’t get a part in the play. The more they get 100 percent of you when they need it, the less they’ll seek attention when they don’t really need it.

Be present in transitions. It’s simply not efficient to multi-task by using technology or being distracted by other events during transitions. There are a few predictable daily times that parents need to be solely focused on the kids and their needs. These include the school drop off and pick up (and any other drop off and pick up times), the 30 minutes before school and after school, during mealtimes and at bedtime.

Use technology as a family. Be involved in your children’s technology use. Know their apps and games and know and observe what they are doing with their technology use. Have random checks where they can check your boring tech activities while you check theirs. Limit your tech content that’s not appropriate for children to times when they are not present. If you want your kids to be open with their tech use you need to model that transparency.

Remember you are the parent and you can make exceptions. There will be times when you have to break the rules. For example, your mother’s been ill and you have to answer the phone when she calls at dinner or your doctor texts you and you have to respond. Don’t allow yourself to be reprimanded by entitled children or judgmental spouses questioning your decision to break your own rules. Do the best you can to respect the boundaries and keep technology under wraps and your priorities in line. When technology allows you to connect with loved ones or access information at a less than optimal moment, use it because that’s what technology is for.

 

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