When limits for technology are being defined, all members of the family need to be considered. One person may buy the technology, but another person uses it. The person who uses the technology does so in relationship with others.
However, as the parent, you remain the authority figure in the family —yours is the final decision. You want to guide your family in how to best integrate technology, including creating reasonable limits.
Initiate a Family Discussion about Technology
Sometimes as adults, we discover an issue in our family we want to change. So we read about it, think about it, and come to our own conclusions about what we should do. Then we move to implement those conclusions.
The difficulty with this approach is all of the groundwork has been confined to us. We only bring others into the process at the very end, at the change part. Not having gone through the full process, others may not be at the same place and may resent being asked or required to change abruptly. This is not unlike the parent concerned about weight gain, who suddenly announces to the family that there will be no more cookies in the house. Rarely does this sort of heavy-handed announcement go over well.
Here are tips for the family discussion:
Let the family in on your concerns about how technology is affecting the family.
- Be sure to present a balanced view of technology—the positives as well as the negatives. If you tend to be suspicious and distrust technology, be sure to confine that negativity to the device and not to the person using it.
- Be willing to open up the dialogue and listen to both sides of the equation—including how your technology use and attitude affects others.
- Avoid dominating the discussion. How you frame the conversation can have tremendous impact over its outcome.
Start Small Whenever Possible
If someone’s technology use is completely out of hand, you may need to take accelerated action. Generally, though, the best way to get results is slowly, over time. Think of the tortoise and the hare; being slow and steady wins the race. Instead of decreeing that your children go from using technology for six hours a day to a single hour, try cutting the time in half. You can also discuss what the kids would think would be a reasonable amount of time and seek to come to an initial compromise. Be prepared to cut down your own use of technology, as a show of good faith and a willingness to model change.
Replace Instead of Reduce or Remove
Whenever possible, work with each member of the family to come up with positive replacements for technology use. For example, replace tech time with:
- Homework - Offer to provide a comfortable family space and include parental assistance.
- Outside activity - Offer to go to a local park together or assist with signing up for a sports team. Go for a family walk.
- Family activities - Enjoy game nights, sit-down dinners, or movie nights.
Be Clear On The Limits and Stick to Them
If you are the main person driving these limits, you will come under increased scrutiny to make sure you’re following your own rules. You’ll also be pushed to see just how serious you are about maintaining the limits. A word of caution here— limits are difficult to maintain unless all the adults in the extended family adhere to the rules as well. The best thing to do is to have the limits clearly understood by everyone in the family.
Determine the Consequences Ahead of Time
That the limits will be challenged is not a question of if, but when. So at the time you discuss the tech limits, you need to close the loop and determine what the consequences will be if the limits aren’t honored.