The age of technology has its pros and cons. Everywhere you look, there’s tech it’s simply unavoidable. From the newest iPhone to cutting-edge AI applications, tech developments are moving at a crazy fast pace. With no sign of them slowing down anytime soon, tech consumption is something individuals must take into their own hands.
Technology especially has its pros and cons in families. It can be a great learning tool and communication aid, but tech can also be a danger and huge distraction. The last thing you want is for your devices to have a negative impact on your household. Fortunately, here are six ways your family can be more mindful about tech consumption.
1. Choose the Right Technology
Mindful tech consumption starts with having the right types of devices and an appropriate number of them in your household. Consider what this might look like for your family. How many television sets should you have, and where? Would a tablet be beneficial? What about gaming systems? Weigh the upsides and downsides and know when to say enough is enough.
When making these tough decisions, it’s also a good time to think about cell phones. Are your kids asking for a phone, or do you simply want them to have one for your own peace of mind? If you’re on the fence about getting one for your child, a kids phone might be a good option. They offer calling and texting capabilities but no social media or internet access. That means you won’t have to worry that your child will encounter inappropriate online content when they’re out and about.
2. Assign a Purpose to Each Piece of Tech
Technology is so addicting because people turn to it for everything — to cure boredom, to help them sleep, and to destress. Instead of using tech whenever you feel like it, make sure each device in your household has a purpose. For example, you might designate tablets for homework or reading books, not scrolling Instagram.
Establishing rules and guidelines are especially important for children. It will help them to be more mindful when using various types of technology. In a child’s young developmental years, they don’t know how to limit themselves. If you tell them what devices are meant to be used for, they’ll carry that with them as they age.
3. Create Rules Around Device Usage
Once you have all of your devices and have assigned uses for each, it’s time to set some further ground rules. You can create all types of different rules depending on what you feel is best for your family. Maybe you specify places where tech can and can’t be used. Or perhaps there are certain apps and features on devices that you decide to block.
If you’re defining the rules for your family and still feel unsure, it doesn’t hurt to consult the experts. According to The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, screen time for children should be limited. Children between the ages of two and five should have no more than one hour on weekdays and three hours on weekend days.
4. Establish Dedicated Times for Tech Use
Setting up dedicated times for tech usage creates healthy boundaries in your household. It also gets your kids on a schedule. They have times when they can look forward to tech — perhaps after school or on weekend mornings. Then at other times, they can get used to not having tech available. Sticking to a regular schedule will help them get into a routine.
Experiment to find out what suits your family best. If you want to do three hours of dedicated tech time per week, maybe switch up when those hours occur. Try different approaches until you get into a rhythm. Also, when you are having tech time, encourage activities with educational value instead of mindless screen time. Videos and games are OK in small doses, but there are so many other great ways for kids to enjoy tech.
5. Practice Being Tech-Free at Bedtime
Allowing your kids to develop unhealthy habits at a young age is a slippery slope. If they need screen time before bed now, then how reliant will they be on tech as adults? Practising screen-free nights will not only lead to mindful tech consumption, but it will also help everyone sleep better.
Parents should limit tech use at bedtime or even put a stop to it completely. Light from screens suppresses the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles. Kids are especially susceptible to the harmful effects screen time can have on sleep schedules. In several studies looking at kids ages 5 to 17 worldwide, 90% of them came to the same conclusion. Nighttime screen use leads to later bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and poor quality of sleep.
6. Make Tech Breaks Enjoyable
Setting up tech-free times seems like a good idea until you actually put it into practice. When you take away a device, it can feel like a punishment or make a kid resentful. If you want your child to enjoy time away from screens, it will require some effort on your end.
To encourage your household to use technology in healthy amounts, make sure to make the tech-free time enjoyable. Don’t just tell your kids to “go play outside” — provide play equipment and offer activity suggestions that will make that fun. Plan exciting family outings or organize an arts and crafts day. When there are so many other wonderful distractions, kids won’t miss tech. Plus, they won’t become addicted to it, which is what you most want to avoid.
Consuming technology isn’t inherently bad — you just have to know how much is too much and set healthy boundaries. When you take the time to do so, you’ll notice a change in your family. A healthy amount of tech consumption creates a healthier, happier household. And at the end of the day, that’s all any family could wish for.