The way I feel about technology is basically the way I would assume an addict feels about a drug they’re addicted to. I feel like I can’t operate without it, but I want my kids no where near it. Kids using technology is a very scary concept to me.
My technological past
I remember downloading songs from Napster in high school and talking to my friends on AIM daily. My freshmen year of college when Facebook first came out, it seemed like the coolest thing on the planet. I didn’t have my first cell phone until I had a car, and it was a prepaid phone for emergencies only. So technology wasn’t something I grew up with, but now I can’t picture doing anything without it.
Boy things have changed, and they have changed fast.
Technology in the Classroom
Technology and its effects scare the crap out of me when it comes to my children. I am a high school teacher as my day job, so I see firsthand just how addicted the students are to their devices. I know how addicted I am to my phone, and I fear that the amount of time I spend looking at my phone is rubbing off the wrong way on my kids.
You can argue with me until you are blue in the face, but I am in the trenches with high school kids that are physically and mentally incapable of restricting their phone use even for a short period of time, and their academic achievement is directly affected.
Technology is a major distraction for the current youth in more than just school. I can guarantee that 95% of the students that are failing in my classroom spend more time on their phone than they do listening to instructions or completing assignments. This distraction is the number one reason work does not get completed in school or at home.
So How Do I Manage Technology for My Kids?
Because of our negative experiences with technology in school, my husband and I have been very diligent about not allowing our children to access or use our phones or other devices.
There are few occasions where we share something visual (usually a picture or video) with my daughter, and even that little slice of exposure makes her start acting like an addict. Once she sees one picture she wants to see another. If she watches a video, she wants to watch it 16 more times. She knows how to swipe through pictures and play videos. What she does not know how to do is open the phone (unlock it).... YET.
While we only share a few photos or videos with our daughter, these are ALWAYS of her or our family. We never show her any content that is not US. We figure once that threshold is broken we will never get her back.
My in-laws made the mistake once of letting her watch a Youtube video in the car on the way home from their house, and we had to deal with fallout from that for months. Screaming, crying and tantrums when she wasn’t getting her way (which was to watch the video her Nana & Papa showed her). That was around the age of 2. With vigilance we broke that habit, but it wasn’t easy.
I read somewhere that the technology stimulates the same part of the brain as certain drugs like heroin does, and thus the addictive quality. It’s not a joking matter, and at the end of the day, our parenting style is what is going to help us navigate this world and raise decent little humans.
TV is screen time too!
One area we don’t oversee as much is television. We probably figure that we grew up with television and we turned out okay. In our house, we do our best to keep our TV off except during certain times of the day. On the weekends we wake up and watch no more than 2 hours, and during the week I don’t allow the TV to come on until at least 5:30pm while dinner is being made.
No, we are not perfect at following our own screen guidelines 100% of the time, but what parent is?
Our daughter is obsessed with TV, and her ability to focus and watch an entire movie is incredible at such a young age. So you can bet that we use the TV as a bargaining chip when we really need her to do something. My son, on the other hand, has no interest in screens, and will even smack my hands if I’m using my phone with him nearby.
Be a realist regarding kids using technology
Do I think we will be able to shield them from technology forever? No. I’m a realist if nothing else. I know someday that bridge will be crossed, but once we do, there’s no coming back from it. I’d like to delay that issue for as long as possible.
Here are 10 ways you can limit your kids using technology:
- Never leave them alone with your phone (or another device)
- Only allow them to see photos/videos of themselves or the family on your phone when you do let them see it.
- Make sure your family members understand your rules around your children and stay vigilant regarding your standards.
- Do not watch TV or have your phones out/around during meals. This includes during meals out at restaurants. Instead bring crayons, coloring books, books, or other small toys to keep them busy at dinner out.
- Keep your device up high and/or on the charger when you’re home with your kids. Only answer calls that could be a potential emergency.
- Don’t use technology as a reward (or lack of it as a consequence) until much later in life (teens).
- Celebrate and practice simple activities, such as playing outside.
- Once you do start to allow some technology set limits for time usage and teach your children how to use it properly. Set usage restrictions and block everything except what they are allowed to use.
- Don’t give in to purchasing a personal device for your child until you are ready and they are ready. Do not feel that just because other kids their age have devices that yours should too. Avoid peer pressure. Redirect your child with other activities whenever possible.
- Play with your children (when they ask you to play say YES)-- and get them involved in outdoor activities whenever possible. Enroll them in a class or camp (dance, swim, tee-ball, soccer, etc.), or just play silly games outside. Ride bikes, go on hikes, play bubbles, jump rope, play hopscotch, you name it. Just be outside with them.
Be present with them...don't give them a reason to go to the device
If you can be present in your child’s life and don’t use technology as a babysitter, then there will probably be less concern with how your child will handle it--but it is a dangerous world out there and I will do what I can to properly prepare my children. It begins with setting the best example I can, which believe me, as a blogger is very hard to do at times.
Is teaching appropriate use an argument to give the kids a device?
I know that one of the major arguments out there is that we shouldn’t restrict our youth from using devices so that they can be raised in an environment that teaches appropriate use. I’m sorry I just don’t buy that as a reason I should give my kid a device. I understand that when they get to high school and college that device use will be the norm, but anything before high school I think is unnecessary.
Kids should not be entitled to a device.
For starters, entitlement is a major issue, and just handing over a hundred dollar device to a child seems like a bad investment for that money. My children are already fortunate to be able to have things that I did not have, such as swim lessons, or a zoo membership, so I don’t need them walking around with devices acting like they know everything about everything. I want their attention to be on other things.
Everyday in the classroom I fight the battle for attention against the cell phones. I have yet to find a strategy that really works aside from straight up taking them away from the students. When it comes to my own kids I vow to not be part of the problem, I will be part of the solution.
Kids using technology is a very polarizing topic for parents, and I think all parents just want to do what they believe is best for their child.
That being said, are there any technology-free or technology reducing strategies that you use with your family? How do your older children cope if you are more strict about your kids using technology rules?
I'd love to hear your ideas because as of right now, my children are too small to realize what is coming. Scroll to the comments and let me know what you've got!
Want more on how to raise kids in this tech age? You can read this article, Children Using Technology...Where We Answer Your Biggest Questions HERE.