Whether texting, surfing the web, or playing video games, research has shown that kids spend more than seven hours a day with gadgets. “That, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad,” says Richard Bavaria, Senior Vice President for Education Outreach for Sylvan Learning. “Balance, as in every other aspect of life, is key.” While tech-savvy kids may have a leg up over those without fundamental knowledge, kids tethered to technology may have their own disadvantages — socially, academically, and, perhaps, even emotionally.
For good or for bad, technology has introduced many “portals of distraction” in kids’ lives — easy ways to get sidetracked, diverted, and overwhelmed. But as the school year progresses, parents want their kids clearly focused rather than busily distracted. Wonder how you can reach a balance? Bavaria and the experts at Sylvan Learning Center offer the following tips:
Your rules rule.
Remember: You’re the boss. Like all rules for kids, the clearer and simpler, the better.
Set time limits.
A good rule of thumb for teens is two hours of screen time per day, including schoolwork. Decide what works best for your family.
Set place limits.
No TV during dinner, for example, or when the family’s having a discussion. Many families find that it’s best if the computer is in the family room — not in kid’s rooms — and used only when you’re present.
Set site limits.
Discuss the sites your children want to visit, and discuss which ones they’re permitted to use. If some sites are off-limits, explain why you’re vetting them.
Schoolwork comes first.
Study and chores come before socializing and games. If your child still struggles with distracting technology, get them the help they need.
Explain why you shouldn’t give out personal information to strangers on the Internet. You don’t have to be scary, just realistic and firm.
Stress your values.
Explain that it is right for them to come to you whenever they encounter something online that makes them uncomfortable or they suspect you would disapprove of — sex, hatred, intolerance, or violence, for instance. Just as we watch what we say in our speech, stress to your kids that it’s important to do the same online.
Be a role model.
Let the kids see you using your computer and phone to make your life easier, more efficient, and more fun. Show how you’re in control of these devices, not the other way around.