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Technology is all around us. We can’t escape it. Like anything, balance, moderation and healthy habits are the key. As parents, it makes it extremely difficult for us to instill in our kids healthy habits and boundaries when we as parents have a hard time practicing what we’re preaching to our kids. Here's 3 healthy habits for parents to practice when it comes to technology in their home.
1. Focus on the Why not the What
Family rules and values are not a one size fit all. You have to do what’s best for you and your family. You and your spouse need to sit down and discuss some guidelines and boundaries for technology and openly communicate those to your kids.
But, remember, if you only communicate the what and never the why…then all you're doing is putting legalistic rules in front of your kids and it will never work.
My husband and I had to deal with a situation where our oldest child was wanting certain social media platforms and devices. We consistently told her "no". Then, she had what she thought was the ultimate leverage with us - if she had friends the same age as her that have it, why couldn’t she?
We had to explain to her the why beyond our rule - that technology while wonderful is a huge responsibility. And it can be a burden - we love her and we want to protect her mind and her heart. You can’t simply unsee something.
That being said, there are some things we let our children do that others may not. We let our kids get on YouTube and watch videos from certain channels. The deal we have with them is they can watch certain videos/channels that we have approved. If they have something they are interested in watching, we need to see it first to give permission. We still look on their history and check up on them. On a couple of occasions they have watched something they were not supposed to. We’ve had to give them a consequence/punishment.
Parenting can be easy if the parental controls do all the policing. It's harder when we start to let some of our control go, and let our kids learn to police themselves. Where real parenting comes in is when you let them dip into the gray area and make their own choices, and they have to begin to police themselves. My hope is they recall the “why” we don’t want them to do/have certain things in regards to technology.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)
2. Model Good Behavior Yourselves with Technology
We have a saying in First Steps, our parent/child dedication event. “You cannot give your children what’s not in you. Be what you want to see in your children.” Meaning, if you want your children to have certain values, you have to model those same values. This can be applied to technology.
Researchers are just now beginning to study how parents’ screen time affects their kids. A Boston Medical Center study of how families at a restaurant interacted with each other when they used cell phones demonstrated that caregivers who were highly absorbed in their devices responded harshly to their kids' bid for attention.
Ever happen to you? I know it's happened to me. The more I am absorbed in social media, email or whatever on my device, the more annoyed I can be when I am interrupted by my kids. It causes me to be short and impatient with them. And for what? To read a status update of someone I knew from high school that I haven’t seen in 14 years? To check out that funny video of cats doing flips?
Our kids have to see us putting down our technology and fully engaging with the family. With our kids, many of us give them a certain amount of time allotted each day to be on their devices. But whose setting our time limits? Whose deciding when we use our devices?
So decide when and where you WON’T use your devices.
My husband and I made the decision that all electronics would be turned off from 6-8 Monday through Friday - all TVs, phones, iPads, Kindles. It’s amazing how turning off, tunes you into your family. Something else I do is turning off my notifications for email and apps on my phone. The only time my phone notifies me of something is when I receive a text message or phone call.
And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Titus 2:7 (NLT)
3. Disconnect to Reconnect.
In the culture we live in, almost every hour, every minute is filled. We constantly complain about “not having enough time”. How many times have you or your friends said, “If only I had another hour in the day?” What would you really do with that one hour? Most of the time if any of us have a minute we tend to fill it with meaningless things.
According to Nielsen's Total Audience Report, Americans aged 18 and older spend more than 11 hours a day watching TV, listening to the radio or using smartphones and other electronic devices.
If we were to get honest in our own lives, how much of our time is spent on social media? email? TV?
We use the excuse with our kids, “This email is for work!” I have news for us parents - kids do not distinguish between working or playing on devices. What they see is a parent who is not engaged, a parent who is distracted.
Our kids need to see us choose them. We only have a limited time with them in our homes. Time is one thing you can’t get back. Once you spend it, it’s gone.
AW Tozer, said “When you kill time, remember it has no resurrection.”
We’ve got to create space for our kids. We’ve got to create space to hear from them, for them to know they are valued. We have to create space for fun, for pure undistracted play time with out kids and our teenagers, too. Because it’s in those spaces, that kids and teenagers speak. They tell you their stories, they tell you what’s going on in their lives. It’s in that space where you find out their struggles, their likes and dislikes. It’s in that space where kids feel like you see them, you hear them.
Technology can be and is a good thing. But too many good things can quickly overwhelm the most important things in life. Our time together is important.
Psalm 90:12 says… "Teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom."
Parents, what are the boundaries you have set for yourself when it comes to technology?