Recently I got some coaching from Julie Bogart on her Ask Julie: A BraveWriter Podcast on the subject of technology and screen time. As parents, I think we all worry about our kids technology use and safety while online. We are the first generation of parents who have had to deal with this particular problem to this magnitude and I think we’re all just trying to figure it out and do the best we can with the tools available to us. In that light, I thought I’d write a blog post about what we do in our family and how I’ve integrated some of Julie’s suggestions.
I believe creating boundaries for ourselves and our kids around technology is a good idea. Many games and online platforms are intentionally designed to stimulate the reward centers in our brains and are, in fact, addictive. In addition, our children’s brains are still developing, so we cannot expect them to be able to self-regulate their screen usage all on their own.
Our now 10 year old, Tyler, was 18 months old when we got our first iPad. At that time, it was our parenting silver bullet! If he was acting up at a restaurant, we handed him the iPad. If I was on the phone and he was wanting my attention, I handed him the iPad. If he was bored at the grocery store, I’d hand him my phone. If I didn’t give him any transition time and he threw a fit because I scooped him up to put him in the car, I’d hand him his iPad. In any number of situations, I’d simply hand him an iPad and peace was restored :) I thought I had this parenting thing down, until a couple years later when studies started coming out about how damaging iPads were to brain development. I knew we had to make some serious changes.
Much of parenting for us, comes down to family values and modeling. One thing we are very clear on in our house are our family values and we intentionally make decisions based on them. I love this quote from this article, “How does technology fit into that value," she said. "So, does that mean that mom and dad get to be looking at their social media or texting during dinner? Because that’s modeling for your kids. It’s very easy to tell our kids to turn off devices and stop looking at their social media, when in fact, we adults are pretty culpable for all of the screen time stuff.”
One question I had for Julie on the podcast was, “I’m all for technology. It’s a great tool, but I’m just trying to find that happy balance between still enjoy reading and being outside and all the other things we love to do and figure out where do we draw the line?” Julie helped me change my mindset about my kids technology use and instead of viewing it with dread, fear and anxiety; I could get more involved and curious about the videos they are watching and create more shared experiences through technology with them.
We still have boundaries set around electronics, but I’ve become more flexible in letting my kids try new things. For example, before chatting with Julie, I was afraid to let Tyler play FortNite. I had heard bad things about the game and how addictive it can be and that fear held me back from allowing him to try it. This, of course, only made him want to play it even more and led to power struggles. While visiting some family friends, I allowed Tyler play FortNite with their son. Much to my surprise, he noticed a change in his friends behavior and was really turned off by the game. When we returned home, he had no interest in playing it anymore, so all my fears were for no reason. All Tyler likes about the game is the dances :)
That experience gave me confidence that our family values really were rubbing off on our kids. Tyler had been begging for years to start a YouTube channel and I was always afraid to let him. I was finally ready to let him try and I’m so glad I did! It has opened up some many “juicy conversations,” as Julie would call them. We’ve had talks about being safe online, what content is appropriate to put online and what is not, and online bullying. Tyler has also had brainstorm sessions about the videos he wants to make, he’s learned how to edit his videos, he’s researching kick-starter and shopify so he can start selling merchandise to promote his YouTube channel and he’s become more and more confident in front of a camera and in general. He has set goals around how many subscribers he wants to have and is constantly taking making strides towards that goal. He is so proud of his channel and loves to share it with everyone he meets. If you’d like to subscribe, you can find him HERE.
The Miracle Morning has helped us create technology boundaries in our house. We have a family rule that there is no screen time before C.H.A.R.M.S. or S.A.V.E.R.S. are done (this goes for Mom and Dad too). We view technology as a tool, so if you are going to use it to listen to a meditation for silence, do a workout for exercise, listen to an audiobook for reading, or use the 5-minute journal app for scribing then that is perfectly acceptable. The kids get 2 hours of screen time a day. They are in charge of keeping track of their own screen time and how they divvy it up between their devices (iPad, computer, TV, video games, etc). They usually use our Amazon Echo to keep track of their time. To make it easier for them, they set it to 30 minute increments and they know they get four of those. Since we homeschool, they kids also can’t get on their electronics until their school work is done. Occasionally, I will assign things on a computer, so, if I do, it doesn’t count against their screen time. After talking with Julie, we also added that if we decided to watch something as a family, which creates a shared experience, that also doesn’t “count” towards the kids screen time. We also have a family rule that no electronics are allowed at the dinner table. The kids also have an Echo Dot in their bedrooms, so they can listen to audiobooks at bedtime without a device present because devices are not allowed in their rooms. One of our family values is we are Transformation Seekers- we are continually curious about how we can collectively and individually be our best. We believe starting our day with the Miracle Morning is one way we can bring out the best in ourselves and this is how we explain to our kids why C.H.A.R.M.S. must come before electronics and why we model that behavior ourselves.
I know that our family values may not be the same as your family’s, but I think two things are really important when creating some boundaries around electronics. Number one, allow the kids to have some autonomy and number two, model the behaviors you’d like to encourage in your kids.
I’m grateful for technology and the opportunities it’s created for connection in my life. I’m grateful that I can be a positive role model for my kids in this arena and that they can also teach me new things. I’m grateful we have clearly defined family values and that they help guide us in making decisions. Does your family have boundaries around technology? I’d love for you to join the conversation in our The Miracle Morning for Parents and Families Facebook Community!