Technology scares me.
That Disney movie “Wall-E” is so spot-on + that’s frightening. But my fears aren’t going to stop the world from moving forward.
Keeping my child from using screens won’t stop the fact that she’s going to grow up in a world that uses them everywhere. If I don’t allow her to experience technology, I’m setting her up to be challenged in a new way.
So I am raising my child to be tech-conscious, not screen free. Here’s how I do that:
We model the social behaviors we want to see from our kids.
When we sit down for a meal, there are no phones at the table.
If we are in the middle of a conversation when we get a new message alert, we don’t interrupt our current conversation with the new one.
We anchor most use to a recurring event.
When we go into the car, my phone connects to a podcast.
When we come home, my phone goes on the charging station + becomes a landline for the rest of the night.
Every other Thursday, we see my Nonna on a video chat at her nursing home. Every Friday morning, we FaceTime a different family member we haven’t seen in awhile.
When it’s a weekend night (Friday + Saturday nights), we pull the family room sleeper sofa out for family movie night.
There’s predictability + purpose around each tech moment. It’s not used to just pass the time.
We set time boundaries for the entire household.
Research is already showing us that screen time impacts our sleep cycles negatively. So, we don’t watch TV or use smartphones in the 2-hours leading up to bedtime.
We clean up the house after dinner, go for a walk with the dogs or play together in the backyard (if it’s nice out), come in for baths, stories + brushing teeth before snuggling into bed.
The boundaries were hard to stick with at first, but we’ve actually favored them substantially more. We have noticed incredible changes in our child’s temperament and sleep quality from the nighttime routine alone.
Beyond that, research has found that an eighth-grader’s risk for depression jumps 27% when he or she frequently uses social media. We’re on alert over here + will prioritize in-person social play dates over social media wherever possible.
We don’t make technology the enemy.
I had a girlfriend in high school whose mom was a health nut. But my girlfriend just naturally wasn’t. Her mom would only have healthy food in the house + forbade fast food + talked about her strong food opinions all the time.
Well, what do you think happened when my girlfriend got to college + got to live independently?
She gained the “freshman 50” instead of the “freshman 15.”
Healthy food had become the enemy. My girlfriend went completely off the rails — eating anything greasy + tempting in sight. And what followed the over-consumption was a very debilitating few years of trying to find a middle-ground relationship with food. There had been no conversation or self-education about healthy and unhealthy food. My friend didn’t know how to think about her own food philosophy for herself + even when she did figure that out, she struggled with having the self-control to uphold it day-to-day.
With technology, we don’t deprive our daughter. We just stay honest with her while she figures it out for herself. We have conversations about how looking too long could make your head hurt, or need glasses, or make you feel grumpy + overtired. She’s 2 and, so far, she gets it!
We prioritize non-tech education styles.
Many Silicon Valley executives steer their children towards a more basic, creative education style — like Montessori or Waldorf — that don’t focus on technology.
Instead, they set environmental boundaries, like using technology while supervised at-home to do something productive like learning how the technology actually functions.
For example, Elon Musk’s kids are encouraged to dissemble + reassemble equipment they find interesting. If they take interest in an engine, he teaches them how it works with technology. It’s a productive interaction vs. hours playing on Snapchat.
Those execs are onto something — they know just how addictive tech can be because they make their living off of the neuroscientist-led approach to designing intentionally addictive devices + apps.
I want my child to be the creator, not the consumer.
To encourage that, we keep simple, open-ended toys made of natural materials available for play at all times. I try to limit the blinking, musical plastic ones as much as possible, but everything in moderation is fine by us.
What tech-conscious decisions have you made in your household?
I’d love to keep this list growing! Share in the comments below.