Written by Randi Zuckerberg
My 2-year-old son Asher already knows how to navigate multiple apps and games on an iPad. As a parent, one of the questions I struggle with most in this increasingly digital world is how I can raise him with the right balance of tech in his life, while still showing him the beauty and importance of face-to-face interactions.
Let’s raise our children to be responsible users of technology. Let’s teach them to appreciate the incredible power of these devices and the amazing benefits of a connected life. But let’s also teach them that technology has its limits, and that human interactions will always be more important than anything happening on a screen. Our devices should help us create more time for real-life relationships, not take us away from them.
As parents, we need to remember that we are our children’s tech role models. How can we expect them to use tech responsibly when they’ve grown up watching us text and email all day long? Even at such a young age, Asher gets visibly frustrated when I use my phone while playing with him. I have to unplug more than I did before I was a mom so I can give him my undivided attention and be sure he knows he is valued. In fact, I actually find I need to monitor my own tech usage more than I need to create rules around his.
Here are some guidelines for your family to keep in mind this summer:
Create tech-free zones in the home – For example, make the dining room a tech-free zone and don’t allow devices during meals. Once you communicate this rule to your kids, you must stick to it yourself. As parents, this means no work emails, tweets, or Angry Birds during family time and meals—however tempting it may be. Heck, why don’t you and your significant other make the bedroom a tech-free zone as well? Set the example for your kids and see what it does for your own relationship.
Instead of just monitoring your children’s screen time, monitor their digital diet – What apps, games, and sites are they using, and how frequently? Are they educational and do they inspire creativity? Or are they mind-sucks? Make sure your children are consuming the right content online—moderation and balance are key!
Instead of limiting your children’s device usage as a punishment, give them a reason to unplug – Help your children explore new hobbies and activities that they can enjoy with no electronic distractions. When they have exciting alternatives to technology, they’ll be more likely to put the device down. Camp Galileo in the San Francisco Bay Area is a great program where kids can rediscover hands-on learning and outdoor play every summer.
Keep your devices on silent after work hours – When you are home making dinner and spending time with each other, you don’t need to be buzzed every time anything happens on your phone. By keeping it on silent, you might even pleasantly forget it’s there.
Let’s raise a generation that knows how to responsibly and productively use technology, rather than be owned by their devices.
Randi Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media and Editor-in-Chief of Dot Complicated, a newsletter and website helping us navigate and “untangle” our wired, wonderful lives. This fall, she will release her first books with HarperCollins, an adult non-fiction book also titled Dot Complicated, which addresses the multifaceted complications of our socially transparent world, and a children’s picture book. She lives with her husband and son in the Bay Area.