Modeling Healthy Technology Use
Guest Post by Lindsey
Stories of technology addiction abound. There have been news reports of parents neglecting their children to play computer games. There have been tales of teenagers developing carpal tunnel syndrome because they send so many text messages. However, technology addiction is not a foregone conclusion of the digital age, and it is possible to teach the next generation proper technology use. It is the responsibility of the parents, and it is essential to equipping young children to deal successfully with an increasingly technology-driven world, particularly when education now runs the gamut from tablet computers in elementary schools to online college courses. By modeling proper behavior and placing limits on usage, it’s possible for parents to set the proper example for their children of a balanced and responsible use of technology to enhance rather than overwhelm life.
The Truth about Parents and Technology
It’s easy to imagine parents as overwhelmed adults caught in a riptide of young technology, but that’s hardly the case. In fact, a recent study from MIT revealed that it’s parents, not kids, who spend most of their time in the digital realm. In fact, clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle, who conducted the study, says that kids are afraid that their families are being fractured by their parents’ use of technology. As she notes, children are tired of “being pushed on the swing with one hand while Mom reads her e-mail on the phone with the other.”
Turkle argues that parents need to stop multitasking and start paying attention to their children. Children who view their parents using technology constantly begin to expect that this should be the norm, and it becomes a cycle. The children are no happier than the parents with their technology addiction, but they don’t have an alternative to this behavior. Thus, children learn their technology behavior from their parents.
What Parents Can Do
The first step, Turkle argues, is to designate technology-free zones. For instance, dinner, she says, should be sacred. Kids should feel they have their parents’ full attention at dinner, and parents should feel the same. It’s no surprise that kids who eat dinner with their families every night tend to get better grades in school, but just because the family is sitting around the table, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re eating together. Reading e-mail and texting is just as bad as eating dinner in front of the TV every night. No one interacts when these activities are happening.
Further advice comes from “Setting Boundaries for Tech-Obsessed Kids,” which helps parents establish ground rules that will teach children appropriate usage of technology. According to the article, certain areas of the house, such as bedrooms, should be technology-free zones. For one thing, using technology too close to bedtime can actually affect sleep patterns. By eliminating the technology from the bedrooms, it establishes a guideline for how technology should be used in the house. If children must leave their rooms to spend time on the computer or watching TV, they can be easily monitored. Banning technology from parents’ rooms as well as children’s sets the proper example and establishes this behavior as one not to be questioned at an early age.
However, it’s also important to talk to your children about technology and a healthy lifestyle. This means having those important discussions about healthy eating habits, sleep cycles, and dedication to school and studies. It’s important that the child understand from an early age that technology can at times interfere with these important aspects of life. Especially as social media use becomes commoner at younger and younger ages, they need to understand that round-the-clock access to friends doesn’t necessarily mean that friendships will be closer. In fact, this constant stream of information passing between people may damage relationships if exploited. Teach them by setting the example. After you talk about it, follow up your discussion by living the example you originally discussed.
Children should value sharing time with family and talking to friends more than they value Facebook status and Twitter updates. The trick is to help them balance the two. Technology is essential to daily life, and children will need to be versed in the latest technology to succeed as they grow up.
Ultimately, it is parents’ responsibility to teach their children about the appropriate use of technology. This is best accomplished by sharing in technology use, establishing boundaries, and setting examples that children learn to follow. It’s not enough to simply tell your child that he shouldn’t text at the table if you’re texting at the table too. You need to teach by example. If cell phones aren’t allowed during dinner, yours should be put up too. If technology isn’t allowed in the bedroom, it shouldn’t be in any bedroom in the house. By setting these boundaries by example as well as by word, children will grow up understanding how technology should be just one small part of their lives, rather than the dominating force that shapes all their interactions.
How do you model healthy technology use for your child(ren)???
to be honest. My kids are leaning a lot of bad behaviors from me when it comes to technology. Right now even. I am on the computer and the kids are down in the basement playing. It is fine. they are happy, but shouldn’t I be doing something else. This is a very thought provoking post. I have done different things to help me not be on the computer so much. For a long time I made it a rule that their would be not technology in the house until breakfast was eaten, beds were made, exercising was done, and showers were taken. I probably need to go back to that since I am sitting here in my jammies with a grumbling stomach. I also think setting a timer is a good idea. Give yourself 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes after lunch, and 30 minutes before bed. That seems like a lot of time, but for an addicted computer person that is very very little. I am going to think farther on this and start implementing some rules on myself.
Thanks for this post. I have a 14-month-old daughter who doesn’t always get as much attention as she should because I’m busy on the computer. This is a very convicting post. I need to set up some boundaries for myself. Thanks for sharing!
I was just talking with my mother-in-law and husband about this the other day. One of them commented about a three year old that they saw playing Angry Birds on an iPad and they were a little “I can’t believe how young kids are getting sucked in to the whole tech thing.” My response was similar to yours in that I think it’s important for kids to learn how to use technology responsibly (it’s going to be part of their lives forever). If you just say no to things like Facebook, video games, etc, they’re going to adopt their friends values for whenever the time comes that they’re out of our care. I’d much rather sit at the computer with them or play the video game with them. Then I can be there to set boundaries so they can use it healthily. That also means cutting myself off to demonstrate it for them (but, how can I close my blog reader when there are unread posts!!). It is so easy to get addicted to technology and I must admit that the green blinky light on my phone indicating a new message gets me salivating like Pavlov’s dog. It’s unrealistic to think that you’re always going to be sitting there when your kid’s on the computer but open conversation and modeling in the beginning is a great start. I say it’s fine if my daughter learns to play Angry Birds when she’s three (or younger) and it’s okay if she cries when I take it away and tell her that her time is up. None of us really like to have boundaries imposed on us, but when we know that we’re doing it for the health of our kids, ourselves, and our families it’s at least a little easier. This is a great and very timely article.
Thanks so much for sharing our link and tips on your blog! What a great thing for parents to see–we’ll definitely be sharing this with our network! We do a lot of writing about parenting and technology and would love to connect with you and your readers on twitter (@parentfurther) or facebook (http://www.facebook.com/parentfurther).
As parents, we can demonstrate that technology is more important than spending time with actual people (including the most precious people in our lives, our children) or we can put the technology aside for some quality time with our kids. This is precisely why I don’t have a smart phone — I’m mortally afraid of being on Facebook and checking e-mail all the time — I already do this too much when I’m at home. I just wrote a post on my blog, Old Mom, Young Child, on this topic that you and your readers may be interested in. It’s called “Flirting with Technophobia” and can be found at http://omyc.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/technophobia/
Your tech post is great. This is especially important when your work relies entirely on technology to assist with productivity and efficiency. As someone who runs a business from home, I can absolutely vouch for these gift ideas for the work-from-home techie.