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Managing Technology in Your Household

Last week we sat down with teachers across the state to discuss their top concerns about their students. They shared with us that, from their perspective, children are struggling with focusing, their behavior, their self esteem, socializing and their overall mental health. However one topic was missing that each and every teacher emphasized being one of their absolute top concerns when it comes to how children are doing right now and that was…

Technology! As a parent - we really don't expect this one to shock you. Like us, you probably have had your fair share of conversations with your child about how much time they spend looking at screens. When we heard things like; "My students are addicted to technology. A lot of the mental health problems I'm seeing are because of a mix of COVID stuff, and technology." from one of the teachers we interviewed we knew this needed it's own blog so we hit the ground running. We began scouring the internet, talking as a team, and reaching out to our personal networks. Through all this research we found - pretty much nothing.

Turns out there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to parents monitoring their children's technology usage. Frankly, what we found instead was a whole lot of generic and useless tips. Like the tip we found where it recommended parents institute a "no technology dinner." This almost made one of our staff members fall out of her chair laughing. She said "Why didn't I think of that - I guess it has been that easy this whole time! Okay so, who is going to tell my child, who has ADHD and anxiety, that even though watching YouTube videos is the only thing that helps them relax and eat the dinner I made - we all of a sudden cannot have devices at the table? That won't be World War III in my house or anything."

picture of phone apps

Another Parent Alliance staff member told us a story about how she tried one of these generic tips she had found online and it similarly did not solve all her problems. "I downloaded one of those apps I heard about that can monitor my child's social media usage on their phone. However, I failed to realize that my child has grown up with technology and I haven't. Just as fast as I had put it on her device she had it deactivated and deleted."

After a frustrating time researching we decided we definitely were not comfortable sharing generic and unhelpful tips with our audience. As parents we know that you just don't have time for that. That is why we have only 3 tips to share. Three tips that come directly from parents and are CERTAINLY not one-size-fits all. Let's face it in today's world there is no getting away from technology. No matter how much we wish there was that option for our children there is not. Children learn on technology, they socialize on technology, and technology is key for many parents knowing that their child is okay and safe. These three tips have simply helped other parents manage technology better and more safely in their own households. Take what resonates with you and leave the rest.

popcorn that a parent made for their child and their friends

1. Be approachable to your children's friends

"One thing I have found that has been really beneficial when it comes to technology is making myself approachable to my child's friends. I'm not saying you need to be friends with them and have them think you're cool. But be open and friendly and overall approachable to them. Let them know that you are someone they could always go to if they, or your child, needed anything. My child's friends alerted me to a concern they had about my child and the safety of their technology usage and without them I don't know how long it would have taken me to figure it out on my own."

We really loved this actionable tip that we haven't seen all over Google. It could be a good starting point for you to encourage your child to have their friends over to your house more. Buy them a couple of snacks, find a funny movie to watch, and DON"T HOVER. Let your children's friends know that you are there if needed and that you are someone they can turn to.

We also recognize that it is increasingly hard to know who your children's friends even are because of technology. Gone are the days where other children have to call the house phone and talk to a child's parent before they can speak with their friends. If you don't know your children's friends - don't panic, a lot of parents are in that same boat. Consider asking your child if they would like to have their friends over, or try to broach the subject of their friends with them. Children spend a lot of time, and confide a lot about their struggles with their friends so it is never a bad idea to be familiar with them.

2. Chat with someone younger about technology

Much like our staff member who tried out the technology monitoring app - it is easy to forget how tech savvy children can be these days. They literally grew up with it all around them. Just like people always say how much easier it is to learn a new language when you are younger - it has been easier for children to understand and use technology because they started so young.

young person at coffee shop with her phone

It may be a good idea for you to tap into that technology knowledge of a young person in your life. Whether it is a younger sibling, a younger cousin, a younger coworker, or anybody who is young and tech savvy that you trust. Go to them and ask them about the ways children are using technology right now. Ask them what, in their opinion, is "the cool new thing". Ask them to show you how snapchat and Tik Tok work if you don't already know.

This is by no means calling you old. However, picking the brain of someone younger can alert you to ways that technology is being used that you were not aware of. Each generation has their own experience with technology and it can be so vital to chat with someone who understands technology in a similar way than your children do. They can tell you what apps you may need to keep an eye out for, they can tell you what it means when your child gets a certain notification. They can be an asset in keeping your child safe, physically and mentally, online.

3. Don't be so hard on yourself - literally nobody knows the right thing to do, even if they claim to

No one - and we mean absolutely no one knows the answer. There is no sweet spot of "let your child spend XYZ hours online a day and they will have 0 impact on their mental health while also learning the technological skills they’ll need to thrive as an adult." It's just not a problem that anyone has the solution to. And let's be honest - if they did have the solution it probably wouldn't work for a parent who is raising a child who is struggling with their mental health.

parent looking at instagram

That is why we encourage you to go easy on yourself about this. We know many parents feel guilty when they look up at dinner and see their child on their tablet. We also know that a parent might have just worked a 10 hour shift and if they hear another tantrum from their child they might have one themselves.

It can be so easy to fall into the trap of comparison, especially if you are comparing yourself to someone who you don't know very well. You may see a mom on Instagram who says she has a 100% technology free household and all of her children play with beautiful blocks and do math equations all day long. What you don't see is the huge meltdown that child had when his siblings knocked over his blocks or the nanny that is sitting off to the side helping entertain the children without the use of technology. We know it's difficult but try your absolute hardest to see posts and stories from other parents and compare them to your family, it only makes things harder and more anxiety inducing for yourself.

Let's face it - being a parent is incredibly hard. It is also kind of horrible for your self esteem. Once you figured out the infant stage, you were already behind on baby proofing. After you finally figure out the perfect school lunch for them that gives them the best mix of nutrients and fun, they hate your sandwiches and want to buy lunch like their friends do. It really is a process that although is among the most rewarding things a person can do, kicks you while your down pretty much the whole way through.

It can also be a very isolating experience, especially raising a child who is struggling with their mental health. If you want to talk with other parents who get it sign up for our weekly Support Groups today. These virtual Support Groups can give you the perfect environment to talk about issues like technology and mental health with other parents who understand you. They can share what has worked, and what hasn't worked with you and together all of you can lean on each other as you navigate parenting together.


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