02.28.2017Updated on 06.29.2018Tech

How to Balance Technology Use in Kids’ Daily Lives

Teens are on their phones nearly a full day out of every week. Here’s how parents can help.
Teenagers with cell phones

Smartphone owners between the ages of 13 and 17 were found spending more than 23 hours a week on their phone, according to a 2016 Magid Media Futures study.

Whether having fun, doing homework or connecting with friends, teens are online and engaged with mobile devices across all aspects of their daily lives.

For all the benefits kids get from technology, there is also value in taking time to disconnect from devices periodically. Ultimately, the goal should be to find the right balance between technology and real life surroundings.

So, how do we keep teens’ engagement with technology from becoming too much? Consider these approaches:

Find periods of time to turn off and tune out of technology.

Rituals like no phones at dinner, during meal preparation or while enjoying certain outdoor activities can establish a healthy rhythm. Encourage interpersonal connection without mobile device interruptions during school events or at family functions. If you need help integrating disconnect times into your life, tools like Verizon Smart Family (formerly FamilyBase) allow account owners to set time restrictions on devices to enforce times to power down.

Role model healthy behavior.

Parents demonstrate behavior through their own relationship with technology. If you are constantly checking texts/emails on your phone, your child will get the idea to do the same. Follow rules you want your kids to follow – if they can’t use their phone at dinner, put yours down, too. Even for those who work from home and need to be connected, find time to power down for face-to-face family time.

Establish guidelines for balance early.

Provide expectations when your child gets his/her first smart phone, tablet or computer. This can prevent bad habits from starting or getting out of control. Taking the time to promote responsible, healthy tech behavior from the start also gives you an opportunity to talk to your child about your biggest tech addiction concerns.

Patience and courtesy are key components of balance.

Just as you would finish one conversation before starting a conversation with someone else, bring a conversation to end before checking that text. Likewise, knowing not to text while driving is not only appropriate, it saves lives. Having the patience to respond when it is appropriate is a healthy, courteous choice for kids to make.

Don’t sleep with your device nearby.

Devices near the bed are a distraction. Even in silent mode, your phone gives off light that can interrupt sleep. The temptation alone – knowing you can easily check in – can disrupt sleep. Checking in that “one last time” may lead to constant device monitoring throughout the night. If using your phone as an alarm clock increases this temptation, consider another alarm option. Don’t make fatigue a symptom of your digital habits; keep your phone in another room at night.

Keep a media log.

If you or your child is concerned about excessive tech usage, keep a log of activity for a week. Be honest. Then review the media log with your family. This can be a great way for everyone in the family to determine where use becomes excessive and to find the right times to power down.

Overall, establishing responsible and healthy technology engagement can guard against the heads-down child unable to tune out of tech and engage personally and in real life.

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