Being a parent in a digital world is tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re guiding a GenZer or a little one from Generation Alpha, the newest cohort on the block. You’re doomed to spend time worrying about how much access they’re getting to technology.
In an effort to combat my own child’s tech habit, I decided to put the brakes on making our household a tech-first one. The lessons I learned from going old-fashioned are worth sharing.
1. Kids don’t miss what they never had.
Keeping a very young child away from most tech is easy. Pulling back the reins on an older kiddo? Better prepare for plenty of moping and arguments.
In other words, limiting tech is best done during the toddler years. Trying to pry a phone out of a teen’s hands requires the jaws of life.
2. You don’t have to be a tech whiz to protect your children.
My child wanted a first cell phone. I wasn’t totally opposed but preferred not to hand the kid the world. At the same time, I wasn’t clear on how to navigate all those parental controls—they’ve always seemed too easy for a smart youngster to override.
Lo and behold, I found out that solutions are out there if you look. Gabb Wireless, for example, created a safer alternative to buying a full-blown phone. Their company’s phones are designed with safety nets like zero Internet or social media app access. My kid can text, call, and take selfies. That’s about it. And I’m cool with that because I don’t have to be the tech police.
3. Your kids will scold you when you use devices.
As soon as I began the process of decluttering the tech from our lives, I earned a bullseye on my back. How? Every time I picked up my phone or tablet, my kids would take note. They’d ask what I was doing and why.
Remember that if you’re going to limit their tech, you need to be willing to limit your own. Sure, I could explain away the need to check in with work. I had more trouble justifying why I was locked to my screen laughing at a TikTok video posted by a friend’s daughter. (Full disclosure: I have ended up reducing my tech use now, too. Although I still sneak a peek at my fave apps after the kids are in bed.)
4. You can’t (and shouldn’t) entirely cut the cord.
Okay. That’s not exactly true. You can move to the mountains, cut off all ties with the digital world, and buy goats to produce fresh milk. You probably won’t, though. So be aware that you have to let school-age students experiment with the Internet and the most commonly used programs like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Zoom.
This is especially true if your child or teen is in cyber school, a phenomenon that has surged nationally since Covid according to the Washington Post. Consequently, you can’t forbid all tech because your student needs it. On the other hand, you certainly can make bedrooms digital-free zones so you have more control.
5. The creativity in your household will go haywire.
Without technology, your kids will have to find something to do. While that sounds great, you must prepare yourself for what that means. When you add curious children and wild imaginations, you can get some pretty crazy situations.
I’m talking about everything from toilet papering the living room (“We just wanted to see what it would look like!”) to arranging a bake-off. (My kids will never be allowed to raid the pantry solo again. I’m still finding bits of peppercorns and flecks of coconut on the floor.) Still, it’s exciting to see some of the cool Lego creatures and weird inventions arise from kids’ minds when they aren’t glued to screens.
Will it be simple and fun to stand between your children and technology? Nope. At times, you’ll want to throw in the towel. Don’t. Stand your ground. It won’t be long before a low-tech lifestyle seems far more normal than daily doses of digitization.
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