Smartphones, tablets, laptops, video games, television; technology surrounds us on a daily basis. From staying connected with friends and family to entertainment, technology has simplified our lives, and there’s no doubt that it’s useful. However, there is a downside: it can cause families to disconnect and expose children to real dangers, too. We need to disconnect to reconnect.
Disconnect to Reconnect
While it might be easy to flip on the TV after a long day of work and school or let the kids surf the Web while you’re tending to chores, reining in how much your family uses technology will create a healthy balance. How can you do that? By following in the footsteps of the tech guru Bill Gates and limiting the amount of time your kids’ spend in front of screens; a technology contract, so-to-speak.
Create a Contract
What should you include in your family’s contract? Here are a few ideas.
Set Time Limits
It’s estimated that kids spend 9 hours in front of screens. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for family bonding. Setting time limits can drastically reduce how long your children are using screens, giving you and them more time together. Make sure you follow the contract, too, so you can set a good example and enjoy the non-screen time with your kiddos.
Determine a reasonable amount of time for your kids to use technology; 20 minutes, for example. Set a timer as a reminder. When the timer goes off, the screens go off, too.
Establish Off-Limit Areas
Limit the locations where your children – and you! – are allowed to use technology. For example, the dinner table, bedrooms, and when a family activity is planned. “No phone” zones (tablets, laptops and other types of technology, too) will limit distractions and allow you and your family to enjoy more quality time together.
Let them be BORED
Television, video games, computers and other forms of technology are the go-to for entertainment; however, kids (and you) should seek other, more productive and healthier options. Let them be BORED!
Use the letters in the word ‘bored’ as an acronym for other forms of entertainment:
- Be creative
- Outdoor play
- Read a book
- Do something helpful
Write the acronym down and hang it in an easily visible location, like the fridge. When the kids ask if they can use technology, remind them that they need to be BORED first. Don’t allow them to use technology until they have done everything on the list.
Discuss and Employ Safety
The Internet is full of predators that are just waiting to victimize other people. Kids are particularly vulnerable to these predators. Take the opportunity to discuss the dangers that lie on the Internet. Discuss ways to stay safe (never sharing passwords, only communicating with people they know, being aware of odd requests and activity and telling a trusted adult if they experience anything out of the ordinary.) Set parental controls and only use secure sites.
Make sure that everyone the contract applies to is involved in creating it. Encourage your children to offer ideas, and really listen to them. By involving everyone in the creation of your family’s technology contract, your children will be more apt to take ownership, and your goal of limiting screen time will be more effective.
By creating a technology contract, you’ll improve your family’s safety, and just get to enjoy more quality time together, too. Time goes way too fast; spend it doing something fun with your family instead of in front of screens.
About the Author
Hilary Smith has writing in her blood and telecommunications on her brain. This yoga enthusiast appreciates a daily workout and loves keeping time with her English bulldog, Chauncey. A journalist by day and avid sports fan by night, Hillary keeps abreast of the latest tech gadgets as she focuses in on the field of telecommunications.