In today's world, it's nearly impossible to disconnect. Almost everyone has a smart phone or other smart device, and there are tons of social media apps, games, etc. that eat away at our time and energy. And, they affect our kids too!
Last week on Instagram we asked people how they hold healthy boundaries with the internet and their devices, primarily phones. Those answers have inspired this post so we can share tried and true methods, as well as some other suggestions. It's important to remember that these are suggestions only. You know your family members and your family's situation better than anyone, so you'll know what things could work for your family and what won't.
So here's our list of tips for healthy boundaries for you and your kids in regards to internet use and phone use:
Set goals for internet & phone use
Do you know how much time you spend on your phone each day? How about the internet? And I mean exactly how much time. Most phones have a setting that tracks the time you use on each app. It's eye-opening to see how much time we actually spend on our phones/devices. Setting time limits for apps (whether through your phone, or setting your own timer) can help you to set healthy boundaries, and can keep you from getting sucked in all day long. Setting time limits for kids is also healthy because it encourages them to find other wholesome things to do instead of playing games or surfing the internet on a device.
Make internet & phone use a reward, not a right
Set some realistic requirements for kids to have screen time. Require them to finish chores, homework, etc. before they can use a device. This helps kids to be productive and do something meaningful, as well as avoid procrastination. It's not a bad idea for adults either! :) Studies have shown that if you're trying to develop a new habit, having an immediate reward or celebration helps motivate you to work at developing that habit. So, if you're trying to establish a new habit, maybe your own screen time can be a reward!
Model the behavior you want to see
This goes for most things in life, but if you want kids to meet your expectations for phone and internet use sometimes the best way is to show them how it's done. Be intentional about the time you spend on your devices, and intentional about putting your phone down/away and spending quality time with your family and friends. Children are more likely to talk with their parents during moments when they have their undivided attention. This goes for spouse's too! I know I'm more likely to talk to my husband about something if I know he's paying attention.
Talk about internet safety
While there are a lot of great things on the internet (including educational tools), there are also a lot of dangerous things about internet use too. When you post a photo or video online, you no longer have a say in what happens to that photo or video. Even if you delete it, it's never truly deleted. Be aware of who your kids are talking to online, and also talk to them about what is and is not safe to share on the internet (whether it's with people they trust or not). Talk together about who they should be "friends" with or follow online, and also talk about internet bullying. It's easier to say things online that we would never say in-person. Talk about that with your kids! We also see the best of people's lives on social media, which can be discouraging. We may feel alone or excluded when people post about social events that we were not invited to. We may feel insignificant or boring when people post about the fun and seemingly amazing things that they are doing or are able to do. We only see one side of someone's life through social media - this is important to talk about so kids recognize what is real and what is not. Never assume that your kids know. It's better to over-talk about something so they'll remember, than to assume and have regrets later.
Help kids to be in control, not controlled
There are so many studies about the physical, mental, emotional, and social effects of the internet and devices. It's easy to allow those things to control our lives - to be driven by the time we get to spend on them. Setting healthy boundaries and finding healthy, wholesome things to do outside of internet and device time will help kids to feel in control of how they spend their time. If we're not careful, internet and device-use can become an addiction because it's so easy to get distracted and waste precious time and "just a few minutes" or "quick scrolling" can easily become hours that we never intended to spend on that activity.
These are just some ideas and suggestions for internet and device use. One of the best things you can do is talk as a family and set goals together, then you're all committed to making these boundaries and goals work for you because you made them as a group.
What would you add? What have you been doing that helps you and your family?