I never thought I’d be that parent: The one with an 18-month-old who screams from across the room when I sneak my phone out of my purse to send a text message. And yet, there we are; we are the family who has a gadget in every hand, and a social account for every situation. I partly blame my career as a full-time blogger and social media strategist. But I also know that it’s because I have 6 kids, and I’ve become more lenient in my boundaries over time. I’m tired.
So what can a frazzled mom who relishes in those few minutes when the toddler is fawning over episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba on the YouTube app do when a break is needed? How can things like blocks and books and finger-paint vie for equal time in a tech-driven home? I’m certainly not perfect, but these strategies seem to help:
- Require 20 minutes of book time a day – no exceptions. I don’t care if they read comics or Lego catalogs. The kids (and parents, too) must look at the pages of an actual, printed book for a minimum amount of time each day. I will not have my kids unaware of the wonders of the printed word.
- Require 20 minutes of outside time a day – no exceptions. Go outside and get the mail, stop to pet the dog, and run twice around the house. Or play all day in a tree fort. Just make sure you get out and breathe in the outside air for a bit, even if it means you spend 45 minutes looking for thermal wear. Kids need to see the outside world.
- No gadgets at the table, with a few exceptions. Kids can’t bring phones or tablets to where we dine. Parents can’t until the final moments of a meal, and only as part of a teachable moment. We often do history studies or a daily devotional from online resources, but they must have a greater purpose and not simply be a distraction.
- When attitudes suffer, tech is the first to go. Snotty behavior and entitlement is not allowed in our home. If kids start thinking they are owed anything, the phones and gadgets get shelved immediately. Breaking them away from their world of instant gratification can help them to reset their hearts and bring a sense of connectedness to the family once again. This is something that doesn’t happen often, but usually just a day or two of being “unplugged” resolves any issues.
- Parents get passwords, but trust is expected. I know all the ways to log into my child’s social media accounts, and I have the right to inspect text messages at any time. But, you know what? I rarely invoke the powers of prying. If my child can’t be trusted, she shouldn’t have those privileges to begin with. Just knowing that I can check up is usually enough to keep her straight.
Like anything modern, the nuances change daily. The basic rules, however, can remain no matter if we’re discussing Snapchat, Vine, or the next generation’s MySpace. Remember, it’s not the actual tech that matters; it’s the child’s attitude toward its place in their life.
Does your family have tech rules to keep communication in line with your own personal values?