One of the issues magnified by online learning since the beginning of COVID-19 was how kids use technology. Suddenly, households with very regulated technology use were forced to allow their kids to be online for hours every single day.
With nowhere to go and unable to see friends in person, kids resorted to excessive use of social media and video games online as a way to communicate and stay connected with friends. Now, as many students are back in school and in-person learning situations, parents are struggling to pull back on the use of technology in their free time.
How can parents teach their kids to use technology responsibly?
Technology in the Home for Learning
Many schools now provide laptops, tablets, or other devices for students to use at home. Some school districts are fairly successful in being able to block access to social media, pornography, video games, and more. Yet, some students either find a way to work around these safeguards or are left to their own devices.
Even in families who have previously successfully prevented access to these potentially addictive apps and websites, kids now may have new access because of education. Many students are spending valuable learning time accessing internet resources that are at the very least distracting, and many of which are potentially far more destructive.
The Dangers of Becoming Addicted to Technology
Kids and adults alike are easily susceptible to internet addictions, from seemingly harmless games like “Candy Crush” to Instagram or other social media to first-person shooter video games to pornography. There are also risks of being trapped in body image issues, gambling, sex trafficking, and more. All from devices meant to communicate or teach.
Why tech is so addictive and what parents can do about it was the topic of a “Beyond Risk and Back” podcast hosted by Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey, where he interviewed Catherine Knibbs, a specialist in Online Harms and Cybertrauma.
Huey also interviewed Dr. David Greenfield, an expert in Technology Addiction. Like any other addiction, internet addiction is created by the increased release of dopamine levels in the brain when using technology. This changes the reward pathway, creating a physiological need that is difficult to change.
Making Ground Rules for Technology Use in the Home
One of the ways to avoid internet addiction is to set ground rules for technology use in the home. While this may seem ridiculous in the day and age where the world is accessible through a small smartphone that fits in our hands, setting clear boundaries lets your children know that this is important and you care.
Some ideas for technology ground rules include:
- No devices in bedrooms, bathrooms, or other non-shared spaces. Keeping charging devices in shared spaces can help with this rule.
- Parents have access to device passwords, keychain, other password apps, etc., for full transparency.
- Parents can access “find my phone” or other methods of device tracking
- Screen time usage reports are available to all family members for accountability
- Parents can and should use “parental settings” on all devices, streaming apps, and more. Even if kids find ways around them, this is a first line of defense.
- No devices at dinner or other family time. Devices must be silenced or turned off to avoid distractions.
- All devices must be put away an hour before bedtime to encourage good sleep.
When making guidelines for kids, it is essential to lead by example. If you expect your kids to turn their phones off for family night, then you need to turn yours off, too.
The Value of Teaching Responsible Use vs. Monitoring Usage
There is no longer any sure-fire way to protect your kids from the dangers lurking on the internet. They take their phones with them. They have access to devices elsewhere. Even though it may still be wise to implement some ways to monitor their usage, the true value is to teach them responsible tech use.
Emphasizing the positive uses of technology, encouraging awareness of screen time, and a balance of outdoor and face-to-face interaction with others can help create responsible usage. Helping them understand the value of education and the importance of using their tech time wisely, as well as being involved in their schooling, will help them know that you care. Teaching them the dangers of excessive screen time, pornography, gambling, apps used for grooming and sex trafficking, and more will help them make better decisions themselves. Talk to your kids about tech.
Technology has become an integral part of education and our lives. Despite the risks of internet addiction and other dangers, kids can learn to use technology responsibly. By making ground rules, setting an example, and being willing to talk to your kids about the benefits and risks of technology and internet addiction, you can help them avoid the pitfalls available in their pockets. When kids are already struggling with behavioral issues, family conflicts, substance abuse, or other addictions, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center can help them take charge of their life again. Not only do we help kids become healthy, responsible, and more confident, we also help heal families. We know that parents and families are an integral part of healing and offer many resources to parents to help. Contact our Colorado facility at (303) 443-3343 to learn more about the programs and services that we offer. At Fire Mountain, we’ve got your back.