How to Create Healthy Digital Habits at Home.

Raising kids in the digital age isn’t easy.

It can be tough to keep up with the pace of emerging technologies and to understand how to balance the risks and opportunities that come with them.

Also Read: How play strengthens your child’s mental health.

Here are some top tips on fostering a healthy relationship with technology as a family.

  • Communicate early and often about the role of technology in your family’s life.

Ask your child questions about their devices the same way you would any other activity they’re engaged in.

Find out what they like about them, what they don’t like about them, how often they use them and what’s working.

  • Discuss the risks of technology use.

Talk to your children honestly about concerns you may have, such as devices getting in the way of other activities, worries about content they may see or things they may do online.

It’s important to tell our children explicitly (and often!) that we want them to come to us if they run into difficulties online.

You can try saying something like “It can be really tough to know how to deal with every situation that comes up when you’re online.

You might run into things that are confusing or upsetting, and I want you to come to me when you run into these things so that we can figure out how to deal with them together.”

We also want to be mindful of how we respond when our kids do come to us with any issues.

As a parent, it can be surprising and even scary when our children share something they’ve encountered online.

It’s tempting to want to jump in and immediately tell them what they did wrong, or to take away the device to keep them safe.

But a good initial response in this situation is to say, “Thank you so much for telling me that.”

This makes it more likely that our child will come to us the next time they run into challenges online.

  • Be on the lookout for underlying issues.

It’s important not to blame everything on technology.

Sometimes there are other things going on that are manifesting in the way children use their devices.

For example, if you have a teen spending an excessive amount of time on social media refreshing their feed, you may want to start a conversation about what’s really going on.

It could be related to their concerns about what other people think of them, or they may not be feeling confident in school or with their peers.

  • Make “yes” and “no” rules.

“Yes” rules are things your child should do.

How do you want them to act online?

What does it mean to be a good digital citizen?

What does “healthy” technology use look like in your family?

“No” rules, on the other hand, are things you don’t want them to do (like bullying others) or things they shouldn’t do for safety reasons online (like giving out personal information).

Talk to your children about the fact that mistakes will happen, and that it’s okay that they are still learning and practicing good digital citizenship.

For some families, it can be helpful to let your child know that they will not be “in trouble” if they come to you with any challenges they are having and are honest with you.

  • Create tech-free zones.

A boundary you can create as a family is having times of the day or locations that are tech-free.

You could also create a place or “docking station” where you keep your devices during a tech-free time.

One helpful practice is making sure devices are out of the bedroom at certain times of night.

Sleep is super important, and devices can get in the way of that.

  • Establish expectations around content.

It’s important to make sure that the content your children access online is age and developmentally appropriate.

For younger children and teens, have them ask you for permission before they download any new apps or join any new platforms.

You may also consider using parental controls available to you [such as screen time limits, in-app purchases, content filtering, etc.].

  • Explore technology together.

Try co-viewing and co-use with children of all ages.

This simply means watching or using technology together with your children.

This could include watching a show together and talking to them about it.

For an older child, have them show you what they’re up to online what they’re interested in, what apps they like to use, etc.

  • Know when to take a step back.

In some cases, you may want to monitor what your child is doing on their device as long as you tell them that you’re going to be doing that in advance.

This is especially important for younger children, or those who are just starting with a new device (like a phone) for the first time.

As children get older and have more experience with their devices, you can give them more age- and stage-appropriate independence.

It is always important though to be generally aware of what they’re doing online.

  • Act as a team.

It’s important as parents to be aware of how (and how often) we’re using our own devices and that’s hard

But joining with your children in establishing healthy habits and boundaries is a good opportunity to step outside of the “me versus you” dynamic that so often parents fall into with their children, and instead work to create a dynamic of “us together versus the challenges inherent in these technologies.”

  • Make it playful.

There are so many ways to use technology to facilitate play and fun opportunities with your children.

That could be using an app or playing a game together.

You can also look up videos for ideas for games or to explore hobbies and interests everything from cooking to sports to music.

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