Technology has vastly improved many areas of life, but there are also downsides to allowing tech to saturate many different areas of daily life. Parents are often concerned about how to balance the many benefits of technology with the need to ensure kids are healthy, active, and engaged in the real world around them.
Research supports the idea that too much screen time is bad for children (and adults). But kids are drawn to all that technology has to offer, and understandably so. Without proper guidance, kids can easily become so wrapped up in their devices that their schoolwork, social connections, and home life begin to suffer.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to balance the use of the phone, tablet, kids smartwatch, and computer with low-tech activities. The following tips are offered to assist parents in raising a low-tech kid in a high-tech world.
1. Model balance in your approach to tech
One of the easiest mistakes to make is to take an overly harsh or restrictive approach to your child’s tech use. The reality is that technology is here to stay, and plays a vital role in many aspects of modern life.
Kids also tend to tune out when parents begin making broad proclamations about sweeping changes within the household. A better way to tackle the problem is to implement small changes over time. Move gradually toward less connection with devices and deeper connections with people and the external world.
Consider avoiding a big announcement about changing your family’s reliance on devices. Simply make meaningful shifts that deliver tangible benefits. Focusing on the positives gives kids less to push back against.
2. Prepare for success
Ever started a diet and found yourself eating junk food because there was nothing healthy in the house? The same thing can happen when you try to shift to a new approach to technology. A bit of advance preparation will make it far easier to embrace a low-tech lifestyle.
Begin by creating a list of activities you can do with your kids, as well as plenty of things they can do on their own. Research nearby parks, trails, and perhaps even swimming pools or ice rinks. Create a list of indoor activities that don’t require technology and are age-appropriate.
Having plenty of options to present makes it easy to keep kids occupied and happy. Being prepared makes it easy for parents to implement a low-tech lifestyle.
3. Organize or join outdoor group events
One of the most common sources of pushback from kids is “but everyone else is…” Nip those objections in the bud by organizing or joining in on group activities that don’t involve screen time. Make responsible use of the internet to join area parent groups and find activities. Or create your own group, online or at your child’s school or daycare.
Meet in the park for some playground time, kickball, or nature walks. Organize a trash collection outing for older kids (also doubles as volunteer hours for academic or social organizations). Indoor group activities might include a book club or craft project. Libraries often have organized events for different age groups.
4. Redefine bedtime
So much research focuses on the risks of allowing screen time to affect bedtime. Decide on a healthy bedtime and stop all tech use at least an hour or two before bed. It’s important that the entire family follows the same path, so no newscasts in the background.
Create nighttime rituals that are relaxing and soothing. Bath time and getting changed into PJs is a great way to signal that sleep is on the way. Avoid high-intensity games or play as the household slows down at night.
Think about your child’s sleep environment. Consider using a single lamp in the room with a low wattage bulb instead of overhead lighting. Make the bed a sanctuary of comfort with pillows and soft bedding. Implement a bedtime reading habit, whether you read to your child or they close the day with a few moments of reading on their own.
5. Help kids build and nurture friendships
While it can be challenging to convince your own child to step away from screens, it’s easy to enforce those rules with visitors. Invite kids over to hang out or play, and make it clear that devices aren’t allowed.
Communicate with the other parents so everyone is on the same page. Your rules might help them implement their own low-tech changes.
Building and nurturing friendship bonds in real life is a skill that can easily be lost when everyone is focused on their devices. Give your child the time and space to connect with friends. Afterward, periodically bring up how much fun those interactions were.
6. Stay the course
Parents who are successful in raising low-tech kids in a high-tech world take one of two approaches. Some limit tech from infancy on, and make careful choices about when and how to use devices.
Others make meaningful and sustainable changes to reduce their child’s reliance on technology. This approach takes time and a degree of grit. But for those who are able to stay the course, the results are well worth it.
Raising a family without excessive tech time empowers kids to engage with the world around them. They’ll build lasting bonds with others and learn how to embrace time spent in nature. It isn’t always easy, but it is definitely possible.
More and more parents are taking a close look at the amount of time their family spends on electronic devices. You won’t be alone in your efforts, and you might find a community of like-minded parents. Having that support makes it easier to transition to a healthier lifestyle.