By Dr. Jan Hittelman
In the fast-paced world of ever-evolving technology, it is difficult for parents to keep up. Children are spending more time in the virtual world resulting in less time for old-fashioned pursuits like having a face-to-face conversation, playing outside, or going for a bike ride. The speed of this technological evolution often outpaces a parent’s ability to develop effective strategies to address it.
While we cannot stop technological progress, here are some suggestions to consider:
• Consider your own behavior: How much time do you spend in front of a screen, talking on your cell phone, or watching TV? Like it or not we are the role models for our children and need to try and practice what we preach.
• Create technology-free days: Consider setting aside time in the evenings and/or the weekends for everyone in the family to turn off cell phones, iPods, televisions, videogames, computers, etc. and actually interact with each other.
• Discuss technology etiquette: Make sure that your children understand appropriate uses of technology in terms of treating others with respect and only communicating in ways that would make you proud.
• Make technology a privilege, not a right: Consider having your child earn technology time as a function of meeting their responsibilities at home and in school. Imagine if every hour of technology was a function of actually interacting with others in the real world without plugging in to something.
• Develop family rules regarding technology: Include your children in discussions about turning their phones off after a certain time at night, how much is too much daily screen time, the importance of other activities like exercise and in-person social interaction, as well as how to prioritize other responsibilities with leisure pursuits.
• Keep a realistic perspective: Remember that part of your difficulty with accepting all of this technology is that it is more foreign to you than it is to your children. When I was a child it certainly seemed like a simpler time for parents. Back then parents were in fear of rock and roll music, confident that it would unravel the fiber of civilization. Somehow we survived that as well.