How we try to balance device time
Our lives are typical in terms of how busy we’ve become as our kids grow up. I think this constant go-go-go that we’re on is somewhat created by us, the parents, with the hope that if our kids are busy with activities they are less likely to jump into bad ones. Another area is the hope that they’ll meet leaders and mentors that would otherwise not be there and create relationships with kids that become BFFs (yes I just used that acronym!). Finally, let’s not forget, parents do make friends too.
A little bit about my family. My wife and I have 2 kids. Our daughter is 12 years old (going on 16 it feels like sometimes) and our son just recently turned 11. They both used to dance and figure skate —this was primarily a logistical decision as it was easier for my wife to drive both kids to the same place vs. running around as my commute wasn’t flexible to help out as much. These 2 activities were the two big time commitments plus music lessons and a couple other things I forget. In the past two years, they’ve focused on their bigger interests:
- Our daughter has stopped figure skating in favour of developing her dance skills including competitive dances
- Our son took his skating skills developed from figure skating to the only sport that matters in Canada, Hockey!
But even though these activities keep them crazy busy with recitals, games, competitions, tournaments, etc., they still have down time and are both attracted by technology. The constant challenge for us as parents is:
- how long should they spend on their devices?
- what kind of (inappropriate) content are they viewing?
- are they behaving in their communications with friends?
- constant reminders of getting their chores done instead of being on their device
- And many others I’m sure you as a parent have experienced…
For many parents, these devices have become portable babysitters. I’ve seen a ton of this at the various games and tournaments we’ve attended where the younger sibling of the child that’s involved in the activity is occupied with this magical device instead of supporting their older sister/brother or simply playing and making new buddies with other similarly aged kids at the event. We as parents have taken the easy road here — we should be considering what kind of long term values and qualities we are developing for our kids.
Do we want them to be distracted by technology when there’s actually something important to pay attention to?
This time spent on a device instead of being a kid will surely have an impact on them as they grow up. Don’t get me wrong, we embrace technology at home too (and sometimes allow it longer than we’d like) but there are times when the plug needs to be pulled and it can be a tough decision to do when you are tired from your long day and the last thing you want to hear is your child whining they can’t chat with their friends on chat! The end result is to spend more quality family instead of allowing this over consumption of technology.
Technology use is habit forming. I worry about all of these games that force you into an “addict”. Just a couple more coins and you can unlock this new treasure but you’ll have to make sure to come back in an hour… and “ping” goes the device as a notification reminds the child that it’s time to play again. Here are some strategies that we have tried and attempted in our house. Some have worked better than others but the toughest part of all is remaining consistent. I challenge you to try these:
- All devices get charged in a central location in the house — in our case it’s the home office where a dedicated power bar has been set for all household devices
- Timed internet access on your home router for your child’s device (I’ll have a future post about how to do this).
- No devices in the bedrooms
- Do chores and get some time on your device
- Consider an app to help remind your child about their time on the device
I would love to hear from you and how you are tackling this challenge. Share your thoughts by filling out this form: