Modern technology has made our lives so much more convenient. We can use our smartphones to instantly fact-check information, like when we’re going to vote, or to find a restaurant near us in a pinch. We can have video chats with colleagues or relatives that are far away to collaborate for those times we can’t be in the same room. And we can use our laptops for work and homework, making our lives more efficient overall.
But there’s a very dark and sinister side of The Screen. It’s downright frightful too, like a monster waiting in the darkness, ready to snatch our children away in the blink of an eye. The Screen isn’t just limited to our smart devices either. It was once a solitary monster in the form of TV. Now that we have so many screens though, it’s become a bit of a gang and as parents, it’s up to us to put it in its place.
That’s not to say there isn’t a time or place for The Screen. The good side of it can be educational, but the dark side lures us in under false pretenses. “Just 30 minutes of this video game and then I’ll get back to my homework,” turns into hours spent wasting precious time.
Single parents have it even rougher. There’s no good cop/bad cop under one roof. In fact, there shouldn’t be a good cop/bad cop scenario in your separate homes either. You should be a unified front in defending your kids from The Screen. Here’s how you can join forces for the greater good and help your kids fight the good fight with The Screen. Click here for a Cheat Sheet
1 Establish clear limits. There are a lot of educational opportunities to be had with The Screen, but finding a balance is crucial. Obviously, if your children are older, they’re going to need The Screen to complete assignments. Don’t just turn a blind eye though. Get involved and set limitations for free time on devices too. Sit down as a family and outline the rules for your kids.
2Show them how to prioritize. A great way to have a good relationship with the bright side of The Screen is to teach your kids how to prioritize. For example, one rule you can set is that there is no iPad, TV, smartphone, or laptop use (unless for school work of course) until all homework assignments are completed. If you have a safe, you can stow small devices in there to show you mean business or even a locking file cabinet will do the trick. Check over homework first before allowing a limited amount of time with devices for fun. This is a great rule because it will help them become better, more productive adults who know how to put first things first and wind up with more time for fun.
3 Set a good example. Let’s be honest here…are you fighting your own battle with The Screen? If you come home and watch TV for hours on end, or scroll needlessly through your FB feed and simply reply with, “Mmmhmm,” to your kids instead of engaging with them, you have to make some changes yourself. Kids copy what they see, so if they see you constantly staring at their smartphones or always watching TV, that’s what they’re going to do.
4Spend more time together disconnected. One thing that crucifies the evil side of The Screen is to spend time with your kids without your technology. You can keep your smartphone with you should you need to use the GPS to go somewhere with them or in case of emergency. Other than that, don’t look at it during the time you spend together. Wherever you go doesn’t matter as long as you’re all spending time talking to each other. Sitting together in the same room staring at your devices doesn’t qualify as quality time together. Go out to the park, hop on a fishing charter, ride your bikes together, go out for ice cream, watch the surfers at the beach, or whatever else you can find. You don’t need to spend a fortune either. As a bonus, spending more time together disconnected from technology will result in better-behaved children.
5 Use parental controls to protect your kids. One of the darkest sides of The Screen is how easy it is for your kids to access inappropriate sites and apps. Use the settings to prevent them from accessing it, restrict data with your phone company to keep phone bills from skyrocketing, and monitor all games and apps. Kids can also be subject to cyberbullying, so being involved in how they use their devices can alert you should someone try to harm your child via technological avenues.
6 Stick to the rules you set. When you first sit down with your kids to set limits, consequences should be clearly outlined. You can even allow your children to tell you what they think is a good punishment for breaking certain rules. For example, if your child goes beyond the designated screen time you’ve set for using their tablet, repossess it. Again, a locked cabinet or safe is a great way to make your point.
By teaming up to teach our kids good habits with The Screen now, we’ll be serving them well for the future. Technology will only continue to become more prevalent in our lives and while it certainly will help us in even more ways than we can possibly imagine now, with every positive development there is a dark side. Teaching our kids how to use technology for good is how we can be sure they will know how to do the right thing always.