10 Ways to Balance Digital Life and Family Life with the Verizon Family Tech Initiative
This post was created thanks to a partnership with Verizon.
“My kids will never have a phone until they are 20!” The one thing I have learned about parenting is that as soon as you say “my kids will never…”, it is bound to bounce right back at you and not happen. When we declare things emphatically, it seems the Universe looks for ways to humble us.
Enter parenthood. Parenthood during the Gen Z era is not for the weak of heart – parents or kids. Access to everything can be a gift and a curse within a few taps. We do have a few tips about how to balance digital life and family life.
Many kids – and ahem, parents – get locked into their screens. To be honest, many of the apps out there are designed that way. They use basic psychological principals to lure you in and make you feel like you can’t break away. As a result, we need tools and it is comforting to know that my long-time mobile provider, Verizon, is thinking along the same lines. They have a great article, Managing Teen Screen Time, that ensures that kids use their smartphones and tablets sensibly.
Without further ado, here are our tips…
Ways to Balance Digital Life and Family Life
Develop a family contract around new tech purchases
Whether it is a new smartphone, a flip phone or an XBox, set guidelines with your kids before it is in their hands. Create a contract that you both sign. Here are a couple to get you started: Common Sense Media and Josh Shipp. Print them out and have your kids design one that meets your family’s needs.
Be honest about tools you will be using to monitor their devices
Have a night for screen time
Ours is Thursday night. The nice thing about designating a night for screens is that it frees up your other nights to spend time together for game nights, reading or catching up on your favorite shows – together.
Dinner time is screen free
We eat all of our meals at the table and as a result, it is easy for us to call it a screen-free zone. Honesty time, I struggle with absolutes. Are there times when my daughter and I might eat our sandwich and watch funny kitten videos together? You bet. Are there times when I will show a TED Talk to my kids that I feel is valuable for them to see? You betcha. The difference is that it is something that we are doing together and we are not letting the bells and whistles of our devices taunt us away from our nightly round of Thorns and Roses.
Collect devices at the door
Different households have different rules. Mine travel with my kids and we expect that visitors stick to ours. We TOTALLY get it that they love playing Minecraft or Fortnite, but we want our kids to actually hang out with each other. The easiest way to deal with this is to collect devices at the door. My son’s friends have been super cool about this and just expect it now.
There will be moments where they can jump into a game together, but then it ends and they are forced outdoors and sometimes we even invite them to Just Dance. (Seriously, if Just Dance isn’t a part of your family’s life, you are missing out on some serious laughter!). Yes, some try to buck the system. That’s their job as tweens and teens, but boundaries make kids feel safe and we have so many other options for fun things to do at their leisure.
During breaks or over weekends, make it a goal to get outside for a short walk or drive to a local park, beach, or pond to get some fresh air each and every day. A stroll through the neighborhood will allow you to run into your neighbors and chat. This might sound crazy but, once you get your kids outside, they struggle coming back in and that is WONDERFUL. I keep a kite, binoculars, a frisbee, and a bat and whiffle ball in my van at all times.
Include Your Kids
It’s time to make dinner? Give everyone a job – and not just doing the dishes. Get them chopping and sauteeing. Meal plan for the week and put them in charge of one night. Peruse Pinterest for recipes and create a Family Recipe Board for Easy Recipes or Instapot and Slow Cooker Recipes, if that’s your thing.
Painting a room? Take your kids through the process and let them help. We’ve used apps to color match and see what a color would look like before we paint. Yes, you might have to go back and fix a few things, but you are giving them an opportunity to learn and no matter how much kicking and screaming there is before, they will ultimately get over it and feel really good about the finished product.
Family garden? There is so much to do from planning to planting and harvesting. Of course, there is the eating part as well. There are amazing gardening apps available and it is fun to show your kids how you can use technology as a resource.
One of my biggest issues with technology, in general, is that it turns most people into consumers of information. This is when we turn into zombies. Teach your kids to use their devices to create media. Make movies of your walks or collages of photos from a trip. Instead of just calling a family friend to say “Happy Birthday” send a fun video you’ve created for them and then call. Your kids might teach you a thing or two as well!
The “I just don’t get it” outlook to tech is a dangerous one. If your sweet little babes were playing on a playground, you would check it out to see if it was safe. The internet and digital world can be a playground full of knives and broken glass, but there are tools you can use to reign it in and make it safer. The Verizon Family Tech Initiative is taking some wonderful steps to make this easier for you. Take the time to become familiar with the devices and the tools that are available to you before you hand them over to your kids.
Inevitably, my kids have asked for cell phones. There is no way they are ready for one – yet. However, we do want them to gain skills over time that will benefit them. As a result, we were able to add a flip phone to our account. Our kids have the freedom of having their own phone and they love to call or text us when they are staying home alone or heading off island with a friend. There are so many plan options available through Verizon that this can be done with a significantly smaller financial commitment.
Someday our kids will be ready to have those smartphones, but according to a group of local teenagers who led a panel on the topic, 16 is the age for that leap. Until then, Verizon is keeping us all happy and connected.