Top 10 Technology Tips to Help You and Your Family Through the Holiday Season by Mia Freund Walker, LCSW

1) WALK THE WALK

  • Model a healthy media balance for the children in your life. Kids are very open about how difficult it is to stop snapping, gaming, texting, watching YouTube videos, and posting Insta selfies. If we want to have meaningful conversations with them about being “digitally distracted” we need to examine our own behavior first. They mirror what we do, not what we say.

2) BE A CONSCIOUS USER

  • Are you controlling your device or is it controlling you? We tend to get caught up in an unconscious process of checking our devices mindlessly hundreds of times a day. A good way for the whole family to reclaim control is by logging our online hours. Try logging online activity for a week, and compare notes. THEN make a conscious choice about whether this is how you want to be spending your time. If the answer is “NO” talk about what changes you each want to make.

3) HAVE CONVERSATIONS NOT ARGUMENTS

  • Rather than banning the devices, fighting about when to power down, or listening to complaints about how every other kid in the class has different rules — take a deep breath and ask questions. The more we can get curious, and maybe even a little bit humble, when we talk to kids about how they are using technology — the more they are likely to open up about what they’re doing online. They are the real “experts” of their digital lives.

4) COLLABORATE ON MEDIA AGREEMENTS

  • Empower the tweens and teens in your life to co-create a media agreement that they are motivated to follow. Share your values and support your children in using technology responsibly, ethically and compassionately by designating regular check-in times to listen, engage and learn about their online lives. If they don’t have a voice in the process, they are likely to go underground.

5) IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

  • We know our kids are far more tech savvy than we are, so let them teach you and show you all of the amazing things they are doing online. They are coders, gamers, researchers, scientists, activists, fundraisers, bloggers, filmmakers, photographers, artists and musicians. Teens and tweens are producers and creators of extraordinary content. More often than not, they are motivated to use technology in ways that help their communities and their world.

6) LEND TEENS YOUR FRONTAL LOBE

  • Making mistakes is a necessary part of adolescent development. We need to be clear about the legal parameters and the rules at school and at home. But this doesn’t mean we need to hover and panic every time our kids make a bad decision. Instead, we can lend them our frontal lobe by providing support, tools and breathing room to exercise their integrity and autonomy online and off.

7) FIND OUT “WHAT’S APP?” AND PAY ATTENTION TO FEELINGS

  • What apps are they using and how are they using them? For support, to connect, make friends? Help them identify the feelings that come up when using Social Media. If they can name the feelings, then you can help them with the challenges that arise. When we take their digital drama seriously, they are more likely to feel safe enlisting our support and guidance.

8) TECH TIME OUTS

  • Encourage everyone in the family to set timers before they settle in with their devices. Taking breaks every 20 minutes or so to move around and stretch our back and neck, gives our eyes and body some needed relief from screens. When kids see you reading a book (not on a kindle) they are likely to follow suit. Create sacred family time and zones that are device-free for conversation or alone time. Better yet, go on a walk together and leave the phones at home!

9) FAMILY CHARGING STATION

  • Charge all phones at night (including yours), in a central place that is not a bedroom. Old-fashioned alarm clocks still exist and allow for a healthier sleep. If you establish this practice at the outset —before your kids get their first smart phone –it will become the norm.

10) SLEEP STRATEGIES

  • Turn off all devices at least a half hour before bedtime. Kids don’t liked to be tricked, and they are very receptive to the fact that the blue light on phones tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime – making it hard to fall asleep. For many teens, if left to their own devices, the phone will stay on all night so that they can connect with peers. It is up to parents and caregivers to intervene so that our kids aren’t “on call” 24/7. We all need time to power down, relax our bodies and our minds, and sleep without distraction. And if we can model this behavior for our kids –even better!
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Beating Holiday Worry: Supporting a Child with Anxiety through the Hectic Holidays by Kelly Ceglarz, LMFT, BCBA
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