What behaviors and habits do we want our children to grow into? Most technology/screen "problems" are really "behavior problems."
Set the example
How many times per hour do you check your phone? Do your children see you doing this? Do you ever talk to your children, spouse or other adults while looking at a screen? If this is only a small issue for you, congratulations! Either way, consider looking at Common Sense Media's #DeviceFreeDinner with your spouse and children.
Tablets, computers and phones are amazing tools. But they also offer endless entertainment and distractions. Even with internet controls, we all find ways to distract ourselves when we think we need a break or just don't want to do our work. Talk to your children about this. Monitor their screen use from time-to-time and help them focus. Consider printing articles instead of reading them on a screen.
Heightened anxiety is caused by the level of distraction and amount of information available on the devices our children use.
Create interest in non-passive Activities
Give your child other activities. If they're busy playing basketball, playing a board-game, drawing a picture, playing the piano or playing with a neighbor, they're not on a screen. See our character building page.
After-school & Homework
Humans naturally want to de-compress after school or work. Does your child get a non-sugary snack after school? Instead of watching a screen, can s/he do something that requires her to move her body?
It is natural to come home and flip on the TV. But it is also easy to turn it into a habit and for a 22-minute de-compression to turn into 2-hours of binging. Homework is your child's job and enforcing it is not the parent's job. But establishing good habits is good parenting. One good household rule is homework before screen-time.
Homework & Screen-time
Have your student work in a common area rather than their bedroom. As teachers will tell you, being near to a student is often the best deterrent from off-task behavior. Having your student work where they are visible lets them know you are interested in the choices they are making, and are supportive of their success in school.
More and more homework is done on computers. But not all homework is done on screens. Work with your child to do their non-screen homework first. They will feel a sense of completion and won't have that initial opportunity to be distracted by the computer.
Consider putting the phones away during homework. (This may be more difficult as children get older and belonging to their social group becomes more important.)
Screens (TVs, tablets, computers and phones) in bedrooms are difficult to monitor. It is best to remove screens from bedrooms as early an age as possible as it is a difficult rule to introduce and enforce by age 9. Not only do we want to monitor content, but we want a stress free bedroom and confidence that children are getting the sleep that they need. (See "Sleep" below.)
Screen Time & Family Time
Children get a lot of screen time at school and sometimes in after-school activities.
There are Technology Tools to regulate screen time at home, but in most cases they can only occasionally help. Family rules and physically putting away devices works better in many cases. Scheduled windows where screen time is okay is easier to enforce than N-minutes / day. This can be for entertainment or homework or both. And parents should set good examples by putting their own devices away.
Family time activities - eating , cooking, cleaning & playing with your children are easier to encourage than just discouraging screen time. And some screen time, for instance screen time shared as a family can actually be a good thing.
Trust but Verify
Children want privacy and trust, but parent's are still responsible. And children don't always make the best decisions. Let your child know that you can check his devices and inspect his messages and online accounts at anytime. You might want to let him know before you take a look as this is respectful and builds trust. But look frequently enough that she doesn't develop a sense of entitlement of privacy from her parents.
Ensure that it is clear that he is either not to create accounts without your permission or is to let you know of all accounts he creates.
Restrict their device/chromebook usage to set boundaries
While the Chromebook is a learning resource, the district completely respects your role as a parent and will support any decisions you wish to make regarding your child’s access to technology. For example, if you wish to set time limits on their usage, or remove the device from their possession when they are not engaged in homework, this can help to remind them that technology is a tool, rather than a toy.
He will still have access to a computer at school and there are computers available in school and public libraries to do homework. Let your child's teacher know when you do this.
Brain research tells us that sleep is critical to learning. Long term memory does not work without the neural pathway re-enforcement that goes on while we sleep.
If your child has or will have a smartphone, tablet, chromebook or computer, consider a family contract. Family contract information and ideas are listed on our Smart Phones page and Chromebooks page.
Device, Internet and gaming addiction is real. Online bullying is real and can be instigated by "good" children. Stay aware. If you see this in your child, do your research and get help. Monitor their computer use - what content are they consuming and what messaging are they doing? See Online Safety.
If your child or family is struggling, talk to your teacher, principal or school counselor.
- Raising Humans in a Digital World by Diana Graber of cyberwise.org
- Surviving Your Child's Adolescence by Carl Pickhardt
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (and Podcast)
- The Teenage Brain by Fances Jensen
- How to Hug a Porcupine (Negotiating the Prickly Points of the Tween Years)
- CyberWise.org - Information for parents of tweens and teens
- Internet Safety 101 - Helpful parent guides.
- Common Sense Media's Family Engagement Resources. (Our students learn about common sense digital citizenship at school.)
- Tech Talk Tuesday Blog - Thoughtful discussions to have with your tween/teen - Addiction, Bullying, Social Media, Cell Phones, College, Distraction, Digital Citizenship, Health, Mental Health, Homework, Monitoring, Parenting, Pornography, Sexting, Privacy, Rules, Screen time, Self Control, Video Games, etc.
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