If you are struggling with digital addiction and with your child’s incessant need to be attached to his or her devices, I very much empathize with your plight. I find myself having similar battles with both my 4-year-old son and some of my 17-year-old students when it comes to properly managing screen time. Here are three tips I have learned and put into practice as both an educator in the technology field and as a parent who loves screen time as much as most kids do.
The Tech Box
This is the most important tool to begin reigning in the abyss that is screen time for children. The way I do it at home is from the time we all sit down for dinner until my son goes to bed, we put all our devices in the tech box. It is easy and clear for my son to follow. Make your tech box fun and colorful. Have your kids design it and put it in a prominent place in your house that can be a discussion piece when guests come over. Have your kids create the rules (with your guidance) on how the tech box operates. Here's the catch: the only way this works is for you to model it perfectly. It does not matter to your child if you are on a deadline, paying a bill, responding to an urgent email or saving the world. All your child sees is that you do not think it is that important to control screen time and that it is ok to be hypocritical.
What is being watched vs. what is being lost
It is important to control what your child does on screen for a variety of reasons. As parents, we have to understand that the disengagement from social strata and from human relationships is far more damaging long term than racy videos or violent video games. Studies clearly support this point. For practical purposes, it is just as damaging long term for your kids to watch an innovative educational video as playing a violent video game for the same amount of time. The child is still disengaged from human contact. It is most important to control the time, not the content, and be very intentional in how you manage that time.
Apply common logic to all things tech
If you do not understand what your child is doing on his or her device, guess what? You have now joined the rest of us. Studies show that it does not matter how much you specifically understand about what your kids do with their devices. They still need to behave and utilize technology the same way as if they did not have a screen in front of them. As parents we give ourselves permission to claim ignorance when it comes to kids and screens because we claim we do not understand. Anything in the tech world can be solved by applying good old fashion common sense.