Hey, sweet girl, why don’t you put your phone in my room to charge and give it a rest for a bit? Dad says you’ve been on it for hours.” I watched as my daughter’s face morphed from amusement at the video she watched to a mutinous scowl. “No, thanks,” she replied, moving toward her room, eyes still glued to her screen. Feeling less congenial, I blocked her way, held out my hand, and said, “I insist. Just for a little bit. Give your brain a break.”
My simple request unleashed her inner 2-year-old. Between Chromebook use at school, iPads, iPods, and cell phones, my kids are constantly on screens. Seeing the glazed stare from hours of tech use, much of which I can’t control because of school, frustrates me. Overstimulation leaves them cranky to the point of breaking down when I insist on a break. I know you’ve been there with your kids too—but there’s a way to fix it. Here are 6 ways to save your kids from technology overload.
1. Set healthy tech boundaries and stick with them.
We have hard and fast tech rules in our house. There are no phones at the dinner table. Phones are placed in our bedroom at night. Television is allowed after they’ve read for at least an hour. No tech during family time. Boundaries give kids distance from their devices; remind them that device-free life can be good and can save them from tech overload.
2. Let technology work for you.
My tech-savvy and crafty husband used our internet provider account to set limits on the internet usage in the house. Once a kid reaches her limit, every piece of her technology pauses until the next day. When she comes to negotiate more time, my husband simply reminds her that he was generous, and she didn’t use her time wisely. Now it’s out of his hands! After the initial whining period, the kids find ways to entertain themselves and feel better afterward.
3. Fast from technology regularly.
When my son’s stomach hurts, I have him fast from sugary foods. We fast from vices during Lent. Why not do a technology fast on a regular basis? Removing all tech for a two- to three-day period can help mitigate some tech overload and reset your kids’ mental states. Adding it to the family routine will help it feel normal and help create a habit they keep as they get older.
4. Challenge them to let it die and stay dead.
Every Saturday, we play a game. It’s called How Long Can You Go? Our kids can use their phones and computers until they die. The trick is they cannot plug them in. Once they die, they are dead. The challenge comes in how long they can survive with dead tech. The winner usually gets to pick the night’s dinner and movie selection. The competition gets pretty fierce!
5. Encourage ways to use tech-free time.
I stared at the mess that was once my lower-level family room, but I couldn’t find it in me to be upset. My kids had taken a tech-free Sunday afternoon and created a massive fort. Every blanket, pillow, and piece of furniture was used to construct this monstrosity. I was amazed it stood, but I was even more amazed that my teen and preteen took my suggestion, worked together, and created something. A living room destroyed by fort-making might not feel like a parenting victory, but encouraging and praising your kids for doing something other than staring at screens definitely is.
6. Ask them how they feel afterward.
My teen was grounded from tech for a full two weeks because of grades last school year. No phone. No television except during family movie night. He only could use a computer during school, and even then, only closely monitored. At the end of his restriction, I pointed out how his mood changed with his tech-free time. He commented how his brain didn’t feel so overloaded all the time because he wasn’t staring at a screen.
What are some ways you can help your family beat tech overload?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
What is your favorite thing to do outside?