This post is an excerpt from the How to Limit Technology Use without Sparking Resentment breakout session at the Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles led by Dr. Tracy Bennett, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Founder of GetKidsInternetSafe
The most important thing about screen management for healthy kids is maintaining a healthy connection with your child – which can be difficult with everything that we have going on in our lives. In addition, it’s not just our non-virtual images that we need to manage it’s also our virtual images that we need to manage as well. We need to manage our own online identities and help our kids to manage their online identities.
Screen time statistics
40% of children under two and 70% of children eight-and-under have access to a mobile device.
40% of children under two and 70% of children eight-and-under have access to a mobile device. Screens are a benefit to kids, but they are also a health concern for children particularly in relation to media consumption and social media participation.
There are good reasons why our kids have a difficult time putting down the screen. The prefrontal region of the brain, the part that handles impulsivity, complex reasoning and problem solving doesn’t fully mature until we are 23-years-old, which is why kids have a difficult time making good decisions and why we need to help them.
The Internet is a portal into our home. In the old days, we would keep our kids from wandering into the city and interacting with anyone that they wanted to, but now kids are interacting with whoever they want to from their homes.
Empower your children to make their own choices
When kids make mistakes go over the pros and cons with them.
Sextortion is a new threat. Kids download software that then controls their cameras independently and can take snapshots of them while getting dressed. The users of the software then demand additional risqué photos. If the kid doesn’t oblige, these users threaten to post the images all over the Internet. This is one of the many reasons why we need to make sure we have a healthy relationship with our children so that they can come to us when they are concerned or when serious situations arise.
What can we do? We can protect our kids from these types of situations with basic tech limits and keeping our relationships open, connected, and healthy. Share the WHY with your kids and encourage active participation. You can’t make every decision for them or tell them what to do, but you can show them what could happen and what is out there. When kids make mistakes, and they will, go over the pros and cons with them. Lay out the options, discuss them, and let them choose what option to take. Empower them to make their own choices and to learn from their mistakes.
Create learning opportunities
Instead of yanking screen privileges, make it a learning opportunity.
Instead of yanking screen privileges, make it a learning opportunity. If you always grab your children’s screen, they won’t come to you anymore. We have to teach our kids that it’s okay to come to us when things go wrong early on so that they will continue to come to us as they run into bigger problems in their life. You have to come up with more innovative consequences and then have compassion and coach your children so that they won’t make these same mistakes. When you yank away your kid’s screens, you spark that resentment and lose trust with your kids.
Parents often ask me, should we set up time software that logs them on and off again automatically? Is that being over-controlling or harsh? I recommend “blackout times” for kids. Encourage children to pick two days as their “blackout days” and those are the days that they can not have any screen time at all. I let them pick which days and usually it’s the days that they have soccer or volleyball and that’s okay. There are a lot of tech tools that you can use to enforce those blackout times. If you are at work and you have an older child and they call you to get their phone, tablet, or computer for schoolwork, you can “unblackout” from your screen device yourself. So partner with those tech tools because they work. If you are not using tech tools, you are going to nag them too much and that will harm your relationship with them.
Encourage your children to research new apps they are interested in
Let your kids know that anything they post you may have access to and you may review.
Make your kids do the research and create a powerpoint or a speech to win you over when they want a new app or a new program on their devices. This screens out the apps or programs that your kids are not that interested in because they do not want to do the work. It also lets your kids do the research and learn about the pro’s and con’s themselves. It empowers your kids as well.
You don’t need to tell your kids what apps you are using and monitoring, because they may find genius workarounds that allow them to get away with more things. Instead, let your kids know that anything that they text, anything they post, any picture they take, you may have access to and you may review. If they know someone else is watching, they may pause and problem solve before they go through with their texts and posts. I think that is a gift and we can give them that.