It’s those final late-days of summer. And, if you are like me, you may have started letting the technology and screen-time rules established at the start of the season slide a bit . . . The kids have spent loads of time biking, swimming in the ocean, seeing friends and they’ve even finished their “required” summer reading. School, along with homework and more structured time is just around the corner. But if you do let those rules slide, how do you set your children up for success and getting back in the swing of things when school starts?
Discuss and set rules and times for technology (iPhone, iPad) and screen use on school days and weekends and let everyone know them in advance. If it’s homework or meal time, it’s often best to have a predetermined place in a central family location – we have a “recharging basket” — to leave phones, tablets, gaming devices that is away from the dinner table or where your child is doing homework so that there are no distractions.
Encourage time without technology even when kids aren’t doing homework or eating meals. Our own family went on a “technology diet” together last fall and from 4-8PM at home, all technology was turned off. Like any new healthy habit, this one was hard to stick to for all of us (including my husband and me!). But, we did our best to remind each other and stay honest. Not only did our “diet” improve focus and attention on school work and other activities, but it boosted our connection to each other. Suddenly, there was more talking in the house. I found my (now) teenage boys in the kitchen – nibbling some, sharing about their days and offering to help out.
Sounds a little surprising for a busy household of two working parents and two active teens? Well, new research out of a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the University of Washington shares that children find it easier to follow rules, particularly around technology when they had a role is setting them AND when their parents were also following them. The same study also found that children have expectations for how their parents use technology. Expectations ranged, but many of those identified by parents for their children also rang true of children for their parents, including, #1 for both groups: Be present – “the device or screen should be put down or turned off if we are talking or doing something together.” So apparently, there is something that we all can agree on. We all desire quality time, even if we need to be reminded to put our devices down to obtain and get to enjoy it.
As we head into another busy school year, I encourage you to develop household rules for technology use together as a family. Ask your children of all ages what they believe should be on the list and why? How will the rules be enforced? Draft the list together – children too young to write can draw pictures. Post the list in a common area where everyone can see it. Use the Screen’s agreement and sign it. And of course, enjoy the new found, family time to come.
Written by Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Ph.D.
Parenting expert and a member of Screen’s Advisory Board