Today's New York Times technology section highlighted a trend where families find themselves waking their teen's via text, lunging for laptops before and during breakfast, and basically feeling panicked if they cannot check Facebook before 7am. This is not progress. And this is setting up our kids to be stressed out and potentially very lonely. There just isn't a device that can give a hug, celebrate achievements or wipe away a tear.
- Teenagers are caffeinating to stay up on machines - and falling asleep in school.
- More than one computer at home (and letting kids use them a lot) can result in LOWER math and reading abilities (this one is from 2004 - I'm sure it's not getting better).
- Children, Youth and Environments journal published how too much technology deprives children of interaction with nature and with other people - things that we need for mental health and success.
For us, it's not realistic to have no technology in the house and around the kids. What is necessary is setting limits on OUR use of technology so that our kids learn healthy technology boundaries.
It's a real challenge - work starts around the world and we wake up in California needing to play catch up. But we focus on the example we're setting for our children about prioritizing the people you are actually with in the moment over the urgency of the digital universe. Unless you are in the business of saving lives (and are always on call - which sounds awful), there's nothing that cannot wait. Without boundaries on technology, we're losing the ability to entertain ourselves and to engage over day to day life in person.
Every electronic device has an off-switch. Starting with ourselves, we enforce "off-time" - during meals, during activities together. When our kids see us lunge for our laptops, they learn that it's expected and valuable to be "always on". We're not luddites - we use iPhones, Blackberries, laptops, iMacs and cell phones. Our children get "screen time" on the weekends for 2 hours each day. Additional screen time is only if assigned by a teacher. We don't have teenagers yet - but I'm leaning towards "phone/laptop check-in" before bed where they aren't returned until morning chores and breakfast are done. Perhaps our kids will have the chance to manage their own "off-time" with check-in as a consequence for bad management. It's hard for us to manage our screen time too. We logon after they go to bed and before they wake up. We try not to chat on the phone when we're driving with them. And sometimes, we just have to wait to get online.
How do you balance your need to be connected with setting boundaries for family time?