Technology is everywhere. It’s become a constant in everyone’s lives, including our children’s. Nowadays, kids are being introduced to technology at younger and younger ages. The average child, for instance, gets their first phone at just 10 years old.
With remote learning and limited face-to-face communication, technology has become more prevalent in children’s day-to-day lives. During the pandemic, parents saw a huge spike in how much time their children spent with a device. In fact, over 3,000 parents reported that their kids’ screen time increased 500% during the last few months.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for parents to take steps to ensure their children form healthy relationships with technology. Here are five ways to get your kids to put down their devices:
1. Track Your Family’s Tech Use
In today’s digitally advanced world, you probably don’t even realize how much time you and your family spend using technology. According to research, the average person spends over four hours a day on their device. About half of that time is spent on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Before you try to change your kid’s tech use, you should first take a look at your family’s habits. How many hours do you spend checking your email? How much time do your children spend scrolling through social media instead of playing outside with their friends? Keep in mind, children take after their parents. If you’re glued to your phone, your kids will be glued to theirs.
It’s a good idea to start tracking your family’s tech time. This will help you identify exactly where the problems are. From there, you can set ground rules for yourself and your children.
2. Establish Clear Rules and Consequences
Are you constantly telling your kids to put their phones away at the dinner table? Do your children lose sleep because they’re texting their friends all night?
The truth is, technology isn’t going anywhere. As a parent, your goal isn’t to remove tech from your children’s lives, it’s to teach them healthy tech habits. Once you identify where the majority of your kid’s tech time is spent (texting, social media, etc.), it’ll be easier to set rules.
Do your children spend more time texting their friends than talking to their family? Consider taking away their devices at mealtimes. That way, you’ll be able to have a conversation. Do your kids spend hours scrolling through social media? You could limit their social media time to only 20 minutes a day. And so on.
Depending on the age of your children, these rules might be more or less difficult to enforce. That’s why you should discuss consequences with your kids while setting the ground rules. It’s important they know what to expect if a rule is broken.
Because you’re setting tech rules, the punishment should fit the crime. For example, if your children use their phones at the dinner table, you could take them away the next day as a consequence.
3. Use Tools to Monitor Technology Usage
Did you know you can use tools to monitor your kid’s tech use? There are apps like Bark and WebWatcher that allow you to track how much time your children spend on their devices.
You can also upload app blocks and parental controls to your children’s devices to ensure they don’t have access to certain websites. Some games even come with built-in timers that’ll keep your young kids from playing a game longer than you’d like.
If you’re shopping for a kids phone for the first time, consider buying one that doesn’t offer access to the internet or social media. That way, you won’t have to worry about monitoring their access as much.
4. Create Tech-Free Zones
The reality is, most modern families are inured to how much they really use their devices. By creating tech-free zones, you help your kids connect offline.
The dinner table, living room, and even the car are popular tech-free zones. In each setting, your children should be expected to put away their devices. That way, instead of texting, they talk to whoever they’re around. Not only is this important for reducing your child’s tech use, but it’s a good way to improve their communication skills.
According to research, technology is one of the reasons why the younger generation can’t communicate as well as previous generations. In a study of sixth graders, UCLA scientists found that the lack of face-to-face communication has made it difficult for kids to read emotions. Study participants who didn’t use a device for five days did better at reading human emotions than their classmates who spent hours looking at their devices.
As children get older, they’re going to need to be able to communicate effectively. By taking tech out of the equation every once in a while, you’re setting your kids up for success.
5. Introduce Other Activities
Technology is convenient. With one device, children can talk to their friends, play games, learn, and more. It’s no wonder kids struggle to put down their devices. And honestly, it’s not entirely their fault.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to introduce your kids to activities that have nothing to do with technology. Instead of handing your child an iPad, play a board game as a family. Teach your kids your favorite craft or how to bake cookies. Or sign them up for a new sport so they can interact with other children offline. It’s important to teach your children there are multiple ways to connect.
According to a report by Common Sense Media, the average teenager spends over seven hours a day using a device for leisure or entertainment. Children between the ages of eight and 12 spend four hours and 44 minutes of their day staring at a screen. Because of that, there’s no question that technology plays a role in your kid’s lives. Yet despite its many capabilities, technology can be addicting. That’s why it’s important for parents to help their children put down their devices.