Parenting in the 21st century is drastically diﬀerent, and it’s all thanks to the widespread accessibility of smartphones and tablets. Whereas even just 20 years ago you might have had a single family-shared computer, now there are a multitude of devices which have internet access in the average home. Being able to watch shows, play, and communicate with others is now more convenient than ever, but it’s no secret that this convenience can become an addiction; this is doubly true in the case of impressionable children.
Children in this modern world are more dependent than ever on their parents to navigate them through the labyrinth technology creates, whether they know it or not. Seth Whitmer, an executive for healthcare organizations, has a guide to help you steer your children in the right direction.
The ﬁrst thing to do is to establish the ground rules for technology use in your household. While the initial draft should be completed by the parents, Hiram Seth Whitmer suggests it is a good idea to introduce a democratic process along the way by having a family meeting and discussing the plan. Here, you can determine what your children want to use their devices for, as well as why.
There can also be an open discussion about self-regulation, and in this case one of the best reinforcements for it is to lead by example as a parent: Explain to your children that your devices are both useful tools and great entertainment, but also that you know that too much of a good thing is detrimental.
Keep Yourself Informed
The power of staying informed can be highly eﬀective when it comes to staying on top of things. Keep yourself in the loop about everyone your children are communicating with and for how long, with a vigilant eye for any problematic discussions or relationships. According to Seth Whitmer, your goal should be to have one foot in the door in the lives of your children until they are able to make these decisions on their own. In addition, new apps, shows, and games are being created every day; it’s always a good idea to check in on which of these your children like to use (as well as what’s popular right now), and help them steer clear of anything inappropriate. Be a ﬁlter that is ﬁrm but gracious.
Pacing Wi-Fi Access
There are going to be times when it is acceptable (for example, after completing homework or chores) and times when it is not (a common example is during meals). Throttling Wi-Fi usage is a good way to maintain order and discipline for the family activities that need to be internet-free, but more importantly it will teach your children the importance of having said activities. It also reinforces the idea that family will always come ﬁrst, and technology second.
Family Time in a New Way
One way to limit the use of technology in a positive way is to set aside time for a family activity oriented around it. Planning an activity where everyone is using their device such as playing a game together allows your children the reward of being able to use technology while also being under the direct supervision and engaged in something that will bring everyone closer together instead of being in isolation. While it’s still important to plan activities that are technology-free, in this case you can use it to your advantage.
Let Kids be Kids
The most important thing to understand throughout all of this is that kids will always be kids. They will be curious, always learning and sometimes making mistakes along the way. They also won’t understand everything when it comes to why there have to be limits in the ﬁrst place, but what they really need at the end of the day is encouragement. They need to know that it is okay to use technology for their interests, and that imposed limitations are not indicative that their interests are inappropriate. Much like with any other privilege granted to your children, they need to understand that you as a parent know best about it, and the best way to reinforce this is with a loving and genuine example.
Seth Whitmer’s Final Thoughts
It might be tricky to manage technology in a family household when it has such a colossal presence in everyday life, but it can be done and you as a parent have the power to set a positive example. As Hiram Seth Whitmer has stated, parents must set standards, remain informed, throttle Wi-Fi access, spend family time in a new way, and let your kids be kids.