How to Win the Technology War at Home

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Technology is one of — if not the — greatest arguments in homes today. You know this.

What you might not know is how to win the battles you face with your kids every day.

Your War

Phones and iPads are important tools, but can become dangerous addictions.

Technology’s Helpful…

Phones allow our kids to contact us at a moment’s notice, helping keep them safe. Social media lets us maintain long-distance relationships like never before. Self-driving cars help prevent accidents caused by human error. Super computers are figuring out how to establish the first human colony on Mars… starting in just 15 years.

When it comes to technology, there’s a lot of good.

… and Dangerous

But there are also a lot of scary, dangerous side effects, including:

  • Cyber Predators — Even in ‘PG’ children’s games, strangers interact with your kids. Do you know all the people in your child’s virtual childhood? Are you sure?
  • Increased Aggression — According to an MIT study, people who frequently play video games (your average teenage boy plays video games 11.3 hours every week) act more hostile and aggressive in real life.
  • Developmental Delays — Children who spend more than 2 hours a day glued to a screen (TV, iPad, video games, etc.) will more likely have irregular sleep patterns, behavioral problems, poor academic performance, and become obese, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Poor Performance — Checking your phone every few minutes makes your brain constantly multitask. The danger of multitasking is that “even though you’re doing worse and worse on everything you’re doing, you feel as though you’re doing better and better,” says Sherry Turkle, Professor of Psychology at MIT.

You don’t need MIT to tell you these things. You see it every day… and it’s a struggle.

Ready to give up? Don’t.

You just need a new approach.

Adjust Your Tactic

First, identify your concerns.

What is it that makes you want to lock away their tablet? Too much screen time? Too much violence? Their ‘virtual’ life taking over their real life? A combo of all three? Something else?

Second, decide what you need in order to be comfortable with your kids using technology. Because trying to stop them completely will be a losing battle.

Do you want more outdoor play? More reading time? Less sass during meals? More help in the kitchen? What changes in attitude and behavior would make you feel comfortable letting them continue to use technology?

Third, have a family conversation.

We say ‘conversation’ because you should listen and dialogue with your children and spouse, rather than dictate rules.

Parents “assert their authority without explaining it in a way that makes sense to their child,” says Laurance Steinberg, Professor of Adolescence at Temple University.

To be successful, you need your children’s input. Enforcing a set of rules means a battle every day. It’s much easier (and less confrontational) to remind them about your agreement.

So, instead of fighting against your children, work with them.

Share the dangers of technology (see above) and talk through the pros and cons together. Hear their side of the story. Then share your concerns. List your family values together. Brainstorm your priorities. How does technology fit into those values and priorities you all share? Teach them to ask themselves: Does this help me be the best person I can be?

If they help you create your technology agreement, it’s less likely they’ll dig in their heels.

Some guidelines for your technology agreement: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time for all screens combined. Also, removing the TV from their bedroom will keep them in a public area (it’s easier to monitor the TV in your living room) and encourage them to interact with the rest of the family.

Finally, lead by example.

Consider removing the TV from your bedroom and turning your phone off during meal times. Show them that technology is a valuable tool, but not a replacement for real life.

Empower yourself to be their best example.

Stay tuned. In Part 2, we’ll give you practical tips and suggestions for technology-free fun this summer.

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