The first step in creating your family’s electronics use guidelines is to start a family discussion about your family’s current electronics use.
This discussion should include children talking about parents’ use of electronics as well as parents talking about children’s. The purpose of the discussion and resulting guidelines is to create greater family harmony, cooperation, and unity. Your children need to learn that each person’s actions impact the other family members. No one exists in a vacuum.
Before beginning this sensitive family discussion, it’s important to learn about potential communication blocks and how to listen openly. You may need more than one discussion to address questions and develop solutions.
Ultimately, you have the final say about the guidelines because you are the adult requesting limits on usage.
Remember that just because kids are part of the discussion doesn’t mean they will automatically follow the rules. In fact, it’s better to expect that they won’t. For more information on this, you can read my articles about the Collaborator and Director Parenting Roles to learn how to discuss ideas and ensure that guidelines are followed.
I realize that setting guidelines with teens is difficult. Teens let you know they don’t want to be “nagged” about too much electronics use. If you’re concerned that your teen may be addicted to video gaming because they’ve stopped doing other activities, they don’t see friends as often, their grades have dropped, and/or they get angry easily, it is especially important that you set clear limits.
Below are suggested discussion questions and situations in which you would set guidelines. Try to apply the guidelines to all family members.
Ask questions such as:
- What problems does electronics use create, whether it’s for video games, Facebook, email, etc.?
2. Do you think (name of family member) uses electronics too much? Why do you say that? (For example: “I feel ignored. They don’t answer me. They aren’t doing what they used to do, etc.”)
3. If computers are used for work in the home, are they taking the parent away from the family too much?
4. What other activities can you do instead of video gaming?
5. Why is it so hard to stop video gaming when asked to?Each family is unique. Base your guidelines on your family’s values about how you believe people should be treated. Put people before electronics. Clearly state and post the values behind each rule so everyone understands why you will enforce them. Your purpose is to teach your kids life skills that develop healthy relationship habits.
Set guidelines for electronics use in the following situations. In order to stimulate discussion, I have suggested a variety of usage ideas.
At home: Video games are played only at specified times. Video game players acknowledge people speaking to them by looking at them. Phones are turned off or silenced. Phones are ignored when they ring or receive a text, unless it’s an emergency.
In the car: Phones are used only for driving directions. All other phones are placed in the trunk. No texting or reading texts while driving. Video games are played only when the car ride lasts longer than one hour.
While eating together: No electronics are brought to the table. Phones are not answered during dinner.
In the morning
School days: No video games or TV until everyone is ready. No electronics at all.
Non-school days: Physical activity or playtime before electronics are used. Set number of hours each day.
In the evening
School days: All electronics are turned in or locked up at the stated time. Only a computer with no video game access is used. Cell phones or video games are used only after chores and/or homework are completed satisfactorily.
Non-school days: After chores are done, you may use electronics for a set amount of time.
While visiting family members: You must spend a set amount of time interacting with the family before playing video games or talking on the phone. Phones are left in the car.
While at a friend’s house or when a friend is visiting: After engaging in creative play for a set amount of time, then you can play video games. The friend’s cell phone or game is put away in your care until that time. If the parent is not present to enforce the rules, talk beforehand about how the child likes his friends to behave when they are at his house.
As a parent, you are an important role model for how to appropriately use electronics. Check your own usage before setting limits on your kids’. Electronics can be easily overused by everyone, resulting in less connection and more conflict between family members.
Don’t ignore your gut feelings of concern or fear about your kids’ cell phone usage or video gaming.
You have an obligation to care for your children’s well-being, and setting limits on electronics is an important part of that loving care. Your confidence in your nonnegotiable rules, backed by your values and effective delivery, will create happier children and a more harmonious home.
©2016 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!