Digital Consumption: Part 3
“Technology in my hands at a very young age created a spark that was advantageous for me. I was on my first computer at four years old and was laying network cables by the time I was in high school. That’s how I ended up at MIT.”
- Krissa Watry, founder of Charleston-based software company Dyenptic, whose mission is to enable children’s safe connection to the digital world.
The most vulnerable and formative time in a person’s life is childhood. Kids are at a point in their lives when they do not yet know who they are or what their place is in the world. Today technology can be one of the main places they go to find this sense of themselves and to develop relationships. Technology, of course, isn’t all bad! It’s finding balance that is the key for many families.
Parenting in a way that raises healthy, mindful kids now requires more savvy than ever. It has been proven that over exposure to certain types of technology can increase narcissism, entitlement, and anxiety, and decrease empathy, self-esteem, and resiliency. However, coding is an essential skill for many professions and smartphones are in everyone’s hands, young and old. So how do we tackle this dilemma and find a balance with something that can be so highly disruptive, but is also necessary?
Below are 10 suggestions to begin finding a peaceful place among the platforms.
1. Start with yourself and walk the talk. Balance begins with you. Remember, your kids don’t know any time other than the time they were born into, so be careful to not project your tech frustrations onto them.
2. Become computer literate. Raising kids in the digital age requires us to educate ourselves about what is out there. There are countless resources that can teach you about every single aspect of technology. Google it!
3. Relationship before rules. Relying too heavily on methods of control can create power struggles.
4. That said, make a Family Use Contract so everyone can rely upon clear boundaries. There are great examples on the following websites: PureSight, Common Sense Media, and Psychology Today.
5. For minors, privacy is not a right. And for good reason when it comes to technology. Knowing what your kids are looking at is an essential part of protective parenting. And a good way to connect to talk about how you both feel about what they see.
6. Explore their level of understanding. Create a family discussion around what kids know about the various aspects of technology. Are they aware of screen addiction, the dangers inherent with social media? Have they been cyber-bullied? What about sexting, reputation management, digital marketing, pornography, etc.? If they are using social media or texting, they may be ready for such discussions sooner than parents think.
7. Learn with them. You don’t need to be an expert to learn by their side.
8. Mindful monitoring. Keep computers in a common area; avoid use in a child’s bedroom. If possible, use a separate device for games and apps than the one used for homework. Gather up devices at night. Have black out times, tech-free zones, and set time-limits on use.
9. Show kids by example that virtual relationships are no substitute for real human connection.
10. Go on a true digital diet together! Plan a screen-free weekend for all. Get out in nature! Bike, kayak, or visit one of Daniel Island’s many parks. Build or cook something amazing. Simply staring out the window can be where the best ideas are born. Kids love to help! Experiences like cooking, fixing things, listening to different kinds of music while you do chores together can all have profound impacts on development as individuals and as a family.
From App to Zen
More apps don’t have to mean more time on a screen. Here are five ways that spending a few moments on your phone can create more space for mindfulness.
*Getting you there on time
Apps like Waze or Beat The Traffic enable users to find the quickest route on the road.
An app like Evernote can sync all of your notes, to-do lists and general reminders across devices. CloudOn or Google Drive create documents across Microsoft Office platforms while on the go, which can make for less time in the office.
*Streamlining digital info
Newsy, a multi-source video news service, analyzes world news for you and creates timely two to three-minute streaming video clips. Other services like Instapaper let you save titles you want to devote more time to reading later.
*Doing your chores for you
Order your coffee on the Starbucks app and skip the lines. Spend a few minutes placing your grocery items into Harris Teeter’s online cart and enjoy a stocked fridge without spending hours in the store. Hire Taskrabbit to do almost anything you don’t want to do!