December is a month for giving gifts for many families and for most teens and tweens, that means tech. Children receive gaming consoles and phones and tablets and computers. They love their new toys and want to spend as much time with them as possible. Then, January comes and I get the same question from many parents. “How do I manage my child’s new tech?”
It can feel like we have created a problem for our children and for ourselves when we introduce new tech to them. We know that screen time should be limited, but we also know that tech is a part of their world and we want them to learn to use and enjoy it in a healthy way. Here are a few tips and tricks to help both of you enjoy the gift of tech.
Give Some Time to Play
When kids get something new and exciting, their minds are not receptive to learning boundaries and responsibility. It’s important for parents to have reasonable expectations. After all, you spent all that money so they could feel excited about getting the tech they wanted. If children feel ripped out of that excitement, they may build resentment. Giving them some time to play and explore lets that excitement level peak and then begin to subside.
The Timer Shall Set You Free
Set a timer for when you plan to have the responsibility talk. This may be an hour or at midday. Either way, let your child know that a time is coming to talk about what expectations you have around enjoying tech at appropriate times and how they will be expected to manage their time. Give a 5 and 1 minute warning to help them reach a save point and come out of their tech trance.
Create a contract
Don’t wing it. You need to make sure you and your child know what to expect and what the rules or boundaries are. Write a contact/agreement together which can be signed. This way, you can refer to the contract later should there be any disagreements around turning in phones at night or playing past a certain time. It should include what, where, when, how and who.
Focus on Responsibility
This conversation is the perfect opportunity to use descriptive praise. Let your children know how proud they should feel that they are now responsible enough to manage their new tech. If it is a phone, help them understand the responsibility around sharing information with their friends. Let this be a positive experience.
Be Honest About Checking In
There are many parental awareness apps out there that are amazing for keeping kids safe. However, don’t spy on your kids. Be honest with them. If you have apps on there that track their use, let them know. You are checking their usage so that they can be safe, not to catch them in the act. Let them know that as they get older, you will ease off slowly. I like to use the metaphor of the L plates for learner drivers. Tech should be managed through communication and connection not control and secrecy.
The Conversation Continues
Tech use, like many other aspects of growing up, needs revisiting and revising as children mature. Nothing is written in stone. If your child needs more responsibility, ease off a bit. If they need more structure, provide it. If they want to add a new social media app, discuss if this is appropriate and how it should be managed. If you notice something, name it and discuss it. This way, you are constantly emphasising responsibility and communication. When you emphasise the values you want to see, your children will rise to the occasion.