Many parents can agree that the increased prevalence of technology has negatively impacted their family functioning and communication. Rather then spending their evenings around the dinner table sharing stories about one anthers day, many families are consumed with social media or addictive iPhone games.
Alongside the addictive behaviours many children exhibit with regards to their technology use, it is imperative that families are aware of the potential downfalls of technology use. When many parents were in school, bullying on the playground was unfortunately a common occurrence. Although physical and emotional bullying continues to be a prevalent issue in the education system, the rate of cyber bullying continues to drastically rise. Furthermore, without appropriate parental controls, children are exposed to a plethora of information on the web. However, with the help of softwares such as K9 Web Protection will ensure that children are searching safe and appropriate content on the web.
Furthermore, take this viral video as an example as it reinforces the idea that family dinner has been “ruined” by children’s addictive behaviour to their devices. Although I am not quite sure if the magical pepper shaker that claims to turn off wifi, television, and mobile devices is a legitimate product, families can implement measures to reclaim their quality time together.
Although this video focuses on the children’s addictive behaviour, I would like to play devil’s advocate for this issue. With no surprise, it’s evident that parents and caregivers are a primary role model for their children’s behaviours and actions. With that being said,in a recent article entitled How we’re adjusting to parenting in the digital age Hayley Tsukayama explains that it is imperative that caregivers model positive behaviour with regards to their personal technology use. However, “Parent’s themselves are still struggling with how they manage their technology use, let alone their children’s behaviour.When it came to how well they modelled good technology behavior, parents gave themselves an average grade of B – as in, there’s room for improvement.” (Tsukayama, 2015). Perhaps your children find it appropriate to use their mobile devices at the dinner table because they have observed you unconsciously check your text messages at the table as well.
So the question is… if children and parents both exhibit addictive behaviours to their technological devices, how do families reclaim their quality family time? One strategy I would strongly recommend is creating a family tech agreement! Now you may be asking what this agreement entails, well lucky for you I have the answer!
Gather the family around for a meeting, and brainstorm different limitations all members of the family must follow (this includes you too mom). For example, commit to all devices must be put away for dinner, or what about planning a games night one night per week. Or, how many hours a day are we allowed to use the internet for? Or what websites can and cannot access? The ideas are endless and each family will have their unique limitations based on their needs.
Like I mentioned before, children are keen observers of their parents actions, so consider writing down rules that solely relate to the caregivers, such as no texting and driving. This rule not only improves family safety but your children are less likely to follow this action when they are all grown up. Document these rules in a fun and creative way and have all members of the family sign it.
Now what if a member of the family breaks a rule? We all make mistakes, and no family is perfect but why not create a fun “punishment.” For example, create a family tech jar! This jar is the same concept as a swear jar, but members of the family drop money every time they break a tech rule. The family can accumulate the change for a group activity, why not a family movie and pizza night!
Need some inspiration? Feel free to use my family’s tech agreement as an example. Also, if you click here, Internet Safety 101 describes in detail age-appropriate guidelines for online use. It also explains the parents role as your children learn about technology use.