Mommy Masters welcomes freelance writer, Amy Williams, who shares great tips and ideas on how we can curb our children’s addiction to technology this summer.
Do you know the average amount of time a teen spends looking at a screen every day?
Most of us might guess a couple of hours. After all, it often seems like our children are connected to their cellphones or devices every hour of every day. Unfortunately, we would be lucky if the answer to the question was only two hours. In fact, data shows that our children are spending about 9 hours consuming media in some form every day!
Suddenly, a couple of hours everyday doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. However, to help us put this into perspective, consider if a child did only spend 2 hours daily viewing screens. This would eventually add up to about 730 hours over the course of a year. Then, if we did a little math, we would find out that it averages out to a little more than 30 days a year!
That is a month of their lives being spent in front of a screen of some kind. Now, when we consider that most kids exceed that amount by 7 hours every day, the true cost of media is mind boggling. Our kids are literally swiping away months and years of their lives away watching silly cat videos and liking posts.
Now that summer is upon is, we suddenly find our kids basking in the promise of lazy days and unstructured free time. Naturally, they tend to wander straight toward their tablets, phones, computers, or gaming systems to beat the boredom. For a parent, this can be frightening, because suddenly we are faced with the reality of keeping our children entertained, but we don’t want to end up relying on technology to pacify them.
The Need for a Family Technology Contract
The amount of time our kids spend online or staring at a screen is heart wrenching, but their love of all things digital also puts them at risk for other pitfalls. As our sons and daughters swipe away the hours, they potentially might encounter cyberbullying, oversharing, phishing, online predators, identity theft, sexting, and more. These online dangers can wreak havoc on our child’s mental wellbeing, physical health, education, and even their future goals. To keep our kids from getting burned this summer, consider implementing a technology contract to protect our children.
Technology contracts are a great way we can empower our kids to safely navigate the digital world while reducing the chances that they will fall prey to common digital traps. It basically is a written agreement between us and the kids outlining the ins and outs of technology consumption and uses within our homes. The most obvious benefit is that this agreement clearly outlines all of our expectations and consequences. Thankfully, with a little work and communication, we can get everyone on the same page when it comes to technology this summer.
Do’s and Don’ts for Creating a Summer Technology Contract
The following twelve do’s and don’ts can help us craft a family technology contract this summer:
- DO sit down as a family and draft up the document. This will allow us to get input from all members of the family in a calm setting.
- DO listen to each other and avoid blaming each other. We want to support each other, not tear each other down.
- DON’T forget to limit media consumption. Consider making it a rule that during the summer everyone should accomplish their chores, reading, exercises, and activities before logging on for the day.
- DO start dialogue regarding cyberbullying and the true power of words. As our kids age, be sure to address more sensitive topics like sexting or viewing inappropriate content.
- DO make sure kids know technology can be taken away. It isn’t a right, but is a privilege that should be handled responsibly.
- DON’T forget social media etiquette. We live in a very digital world and sometimes this collides with real life. Make sure they understand how to use their devices politely in group settings. Teach them how to silence their ringers when in public and put down their devices at mealtimes. Today, many of our kids have a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) which can make putting down the technology difficult at times.
- DO teach children about the permeability of the Internet. The Internet doesn’t forget and anything that they put online has the potential to be uncovered. This can affect them for years to come.
- DO encourage our boys and girls to avoid friending strangers. They should only accept friend requests from people they actually know in real life.
- DON’T share passwords with friends or crushes.
- DO let them know it is alright to decline sext requests. If they are caught or prosecuted they could face felony charges for possessing child pornography.
- DO have kids seek help from an adult if they ever encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- DON’T be afraid to label what is and isn’t considered inappropriate behaviors. Far too often, children and parents disagree on what is acceptable language, photography, and teasing.
How does your family curb summer technology use?
Amy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.