TLDR: If we want our children to have a positive and healthy relationship with technology, then we need to model these behaviors for them. We need to practice what we preach.
I spend a lot of time wondering what the technological future will hold for my children. The world is changing so quickly, and more and more people have a device in their hands throughout the entire day. Nowadays many of us just wear technology around our wrist so we can have it attached to us at all times. Is this what I want for my kiddos? Do I want them to feel the need to be constantly connected to the digital world?
Whenever I start thinking about how connected this world has become, I start to become nostalgic for the ways things used to be. Do you remember going to dinner with friends and no one looking at a phone? Do you remember having a conversation with your spouse without him staring at a message on his watch? Do you remember a time when kids just had to stare out the window on a long car trip instead of watching a video? Or sit at a restaurant and just patiently wait instead of playing a game on a phone? I long for this technology-free time. I hope that someday my children will get to experience it: a moment to live in the now and disconnect, a moment to breathe in the air and detach from the technology that surrounds us.
Upon reflection, I realize that I cannot expect my kiddos to learn this on their own. Just like I teach them to say “please” and “thank you,” to show respect to their grandparents, and to tie their shoes, I must model this behavior for them. I am definitely aware that they are watching everything I do and say. If I am constantly attached to my phone, then someday they will be as well. If I want them to turn off devices and breathe every once in awhile, then I need to show them this behavior. I realize that I have to think of the advice I’m going to give them as they get older, and then I need to model that behavior for them now. Easier said than done, I’m sure.
Here are some goals for myself so that hopefully as my children get older they can emulate some positive techie behavior:
1. Set limits on screen time
If you want to make sure your kiddos aren’t on a screen 99% of their day, then you have to make sure you aren’t as well. Turn off your phone (or at least put it on “Do Not Disturb”) for certain times during the day. Close your laptop. Let your children see you without a screen in your face. Set a timer and be tech-free for an hour or two each evening.
2. No technology during meals
You want your kids to focus on eating when you are eating? Then you have to make the same commitment as well. No checking emails or scrolling the news while you eat your breakfast. Concentrate on some mindful eating practices. Make the rule that there are never devices at the table when eating. This applies to restaurants as well.
3. Keep screens out of the bedrooms
Your kids would be too tempted if there were a tablet right next to their beds, and you would be tempted as well. How many of us sleep with our phone next to the bed? How many of us hope our teenagers do not sleep next to their phones someday? I definitely want my child sleeping and not texting or watching videos as he gets older. Plan to gather all devices at night and keep them in a common area to charge (like a kitchen.) These devices are off-limits when it’s time to relax and start getting ready for bed. Everyone will sleep better without the distraction of technology.
4. Focus on one thing at a time
We will want our kids to be fully present in whatever they choose to do. We need to demonstrate the same. If someone is speaking to us, we must put the phone away. If I’m working on a project on my laptop, I should not be streaming a video to the television and texting friends on my phone at the same time. Focusing means choosing one thing to which we devote our attention. Choose one thing and give it your all.
5. Never use a device while driving (duh!)
I think we all know this, but I feel like it can never be said enough. I see my husband grab his phone while driving, and our kids are in the back of the car. “What are you doing?!” I’ll say. I cannot stand it. Not only is he putting our entire family in danger, but he is also modeling for our children that this is okay. I do not want my boys to be distracted drivers, so I need my husband to stop doing this. (I also want all of us to stay alive so I also need him to stop for that reason too.)
6. Limit social media use
Just because something happens doesn’t mean you have to post it. I see adults make this error all of the time. Quit posting your life and start living it. Once my kids have access to social media, they need to still have a life that is not lived out for their “followers”. They need to be cautious and thoughtful. Those profiles never truly disappear. Adults need to remember this as well and model thoughtful social media etiquette.
Ultimately we only get so many hours here on this earth. As parents, we want our children to live long, healthy, and happy lives. We want them to have friends and create memories. But to do this, they must be present. They have to shut down their devices and make true connections with real-life people. How are they going to know how to do this while living in this challenging world surrounded by technological influences everywhere? We as parents are going to show them. We are going to wisely use technology, but also shut it down and live in the moment. None of us want life to pass us by while we are sitting behind a screen. And we certainly don’t want that for our children.
(all photos are from unsplash.com)