Parenting and Technology — Finding balance between family time and screen time
Just as with the advent of the printing press, we still face the fear of latest technological developments becoming an enemy to our current standard of living. But we need to ask ourselves whether technology has become the enemy or if it is how we use it that makes it the enemy? If we allow technology to replace essential elements of a fulfilled existence such as social interactions with our friends and our family, then yes technology can take on a negative role. But shouldn’t we change our relationship with technology to take on a healthier and more positive role?
Technology has its value, but the way we use it without restriction can leave us feeling disconnected from the real world and even more so from our family. Children, especially owing to their large presence on social media and the internet, can be vulnerable to becoming socially disconnected and depressed due to their lack of ‘human’ interaction.
Human beings are designed to bond and interact with other humans, which is why we need to find a balance between the time we spend on our devices and the time we spend with our family. This can be done by allocating a specific amount of time for family interaction.
Keeping time aside for family can help in the following ways:
- Familial interaction over activities, like board games, picnics, etc., can help create a sense of belonging for all members involved.
- Family time, in a sense, can help provide a medium for parents to inculcate their values in their children. This medium works both ways as it also helps children learn from their parents.
- Regular interaction can help improve communication between parents and children.
- Family time can help break down the walls of uncertainty and build a relationship of trust and care.
However, to create a balance between family time and screen time, both parents and children need to come to a consensus. Points to keep in mind to try and find that balance include:
- Quality time is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship, but the time allocated does not need to be fixed. For best results, we need to talk to our children and together decide how we can spend time together as a family on a daily basis.
- We all have our own technological needs, so have an open discussion on whether there should be a limit on screen time and how much the limit should be.
- Each member of the family may want to spend family time in a different way, so try to find activities or conversation topics that everyone can enjoy.
This decision needs to be as much in children’s hands, as it is in ours. Additionally, family time does not need to be the forced encounter that we believe it to be. I remember a conversation with a neighbour where he told me about his upbringing. One thing that resonated with me was that we often think of ‘family time’ as the time we invest as a family. However, large family gatherings may not always offer adolescents enough space to really be themselves and communicate freely.
During puberty, children may need a lot of one-on- one time, and my neighbour’s parents understood this. His dad would often take him for drives at night where the two would bond in ways only they could. His mom would take him for walks every now and then, and with her, he shared and developed a unique relationship. He ended up sharing a lot with both individually, especially in the absence of his little sister, and this gave him a great footing through his puberty.
We cannot expect family time to work if we try to force an outcome or if we allow ourselves to be distracted. However, family time can become quality time together if we pay attention to what our children say and how we make them feel. By removing technology and the internet out of the ‘family time equation’, both parents and children can give their complete attention to each other. This can even apply to small vacations or trips, where the family, as a whole, leaves their gadgets and toys behind and uses the opportunity to bond with each other.
That being said, finding the right balance won’t be a walk in the park. Children may initially be hesitant to spend time away from their devices. But to influence and regulate their use of technology, we should start by being good role models. It is a fact that children of ardent readers also catch a reading bug. So, in the same way if our children see us use technology and applications to enhance and expand our existence; like using apps for meditation and exercise in the morning, using ‘Spotify’ to relax and then using podcasts and reading and training apps like ‘Blinkist’ and ‘Udemy’; they will also look to use technology as a life enhancer rather than a life detractor.
While it may be our job to help our children understand how to use technology in a safe, disciplined and responsible manner, we should maintain our focus on helping them enjoy the time they spend with us and away from their devices by introducing them to other engaging activities that can be both fun and healthy. Even if it is half an hour a day, the time spent well together can make significant progress towards building a stronger foundation with your children.