As a parent, I am constantly amazed by the wealth of technology my children have access to. Between the various apps, games, social media platforms, and search engines, it’s as if they have the world at their fingertips. Of course, this also presents a problem: Every day, they could spend hours upon hours on their devices.
It’s a dilemma that’s not written in the baby books, and I’ll be honest, it was daunting at first. I had so many questions: Do I limit their screen time? Should I be checking their devices? How do I know if they’re encountering inappropriate content?
As parents, my husband and I had to figure out effective ways to place healthy boundaries around our kids’ screen time while monitoring the content they’re exposed to. Thankfully, there are so many tools and resources out there that can help with that.
I’m now proud of the relationship my kids have with technology, which is such an important aspect of being a parent these days.
But I’m also surprised at how, because of our kids’ relationship with technology, our family dynamic has improved. My kids are happy to be connected, but it’s helped me grow in unexpected ways, too.
Worried about embracing technology in your house? Here are three ways it helped me become a better parent:
It helped me cultivate independence in my kids.
When my kids were younger, I’ll admit, I had a tendency to hover. In an effort to keep them safe, I would ask a lot of questions and track their every move. But as my kids got older, I realized this wasn’t good for them—or me.
Luckily, many apps now have easy-to-use tools that help parents set healthy boundaries. For example, we leverage device screen time limits—and it’s up to them to decide how to use that hour. We also use built-in parental controls within the apps they use. Messenger Kids, in particular, is great for this. My daughter has autonomy and independence, but every now and then I can peek in on conversations to make sure she’s safe. She feels like she has freedom, and I don’t have to hover.
It helped me become more attuned to my kids’ growth patterns.
I see many parents struggling with technology because they set and forget, only updating parental controls once . . . when their child first gets a device. It’s no surprise this can create friction—kids get older, but they still have “babyish” controls in place. By keeping this top of mind, it’s helped me stay in tune with my kids’ growth patterns and needs.
When my daughter first downloaded Messenger Kids, I wanted complete control of her contact list. As she got a little older and was ready for more responsibility, I updated the settings so she could add and remove contacts on her own, still with my oversight. I also loosened the app’s Sleep Mode restrictions, which allow parents to determine when kids have access to the app.
It helped me find more intentional ways to spend time as a family.
Conscious of the time my kids were spending nose-down in their devices, I knew I also needed to create space for good old-fashioned family time. In our house, that takes the form of Fun Family Friday Nights when we all set aside our devices (mom and dad too) and do an activity together. Sometimes we ride scooters, sometimes we play Spikeball in the yard, and sometimes we just hang out and watch a movie. Either way, it’s a great way to create balance, and it makes our time together feel more intentional.
Technology is an incredible thing, and the reality is we can’t live without it. The key is to make it work for you, and not the other way around.