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Teaching Kids To Manage Technology

 

Diane:
So we get lots and lots of questions about technology. And one of the most common ones is about the fact that kids need technology to be successful in school, so they have to do their homework on an iPad or they have to watch-

Elaine:
On the computer or whatever.

Diane:
And we've all been there. Right? So that moment when they walk in the room and you can see the light change in the computer because you know they've been doing something other than their homework.

Elaine:
Right. And they flip the screen as soon as you walk in as if you're not going to notice.

Diane:
Exactly. And so, what do you do to help your child to be able to have a good relationship with technology? Use it for what they need to get it done and not be constantly distracted by other things.

Elaine:
And not want to kill the school in the process. Well, so I think what you spoke to is the first and most important part, right? Which is that our job in terms of technology is to teach them to consciously manage their technology because this is a lifelong issue. So I think that we're digital transplants, right? Our kids are digital natives. This is their world and it's unlikely to change. And so instead of resisting it and demonizing it, what we really need to do is to figure out how to embrace it and help them learn to be with it in a way that works for them.

Diane:
Well, and a lot of parents will be like, "Okay, we're a no-screen household." And that's going to work for a while-

Elaine:
Until they have school assignments.

Diane:
... and so they need to have the technology. And so, again, what we're really trying to do is to help our kids to have healthy relationships with technology, to learn to manage technology. And I think part of that is not saying what we've decided a healthy relationships should be, because that can be really hard.

Elaine:
But raising their awareness to it. We want them to start to think about their relationship with technology.

Diane:
So, for example, a lot of parents will be like, "My kid takes three hours to get their homework done because they're constantly going back and forth between their homework and video games." And I had one kid who would do this.

Elaine:
I did, too.

Diane:
But the reality is, he didn't care.

Elaine:
Neither did she.

Diane:
He did not care that it took three hours to do his homework because he liked-

Elaine:
The breaks.

Diane:
He liked the diversity of, "I'm doing homework for awhile, and now I'm watching this for a while." And if your child has a hard time transitioning back to the work, it's a different kind of conversation.

Elaine:
But then you take aim on that issue... instead of the demonizing of, "You can't take breaks because." Right.

Diane:
So part of that is about helping your kids to recognize the natural breaks. So, helping them to... If they're going to do things on technology, to do things that do have breaks, to start. So, YouTube videos, having them watching things that are shorter and so that every time a video stops, they pause and go, "Okay, what should I be doing now? Can I watch another video?"

Elaine:
So what... If we pull back from that, really, the context here is to really be in a conversation with them about what works for them. Helping them see, "This works for me, this doesn't." I had one kid I remember who used to give me her passwords during exams and she would say, "Can you change them for me?" And then change them back after exams.

Diane:
Right. But it's about collaborative problem solving. I think that's the piece of it. Even at young ages, you want to involve your child in solving the problem. Instead of saying, "Okay, this is our house rule and this is how we're going to do it," because they're going to rely on an external control to manage their relationship with technology.

Elaine:
And it's probably the most important thing for them to learn to get a handle on in their lives because it really isn't going away. So-

Diane:
And, you know what? It's not-

Elaine:
... engaging with them.

Diane:
And it's not just about technology because, if you've never had a kid who hyperfocused on a book, I mean, I had a kid who would sit and read nine chapters until three in the morning because he was so hyperfocused on it and it's the same skill. It's about learning

Elaine:
How do I break the hyperfocus-

Diane:
... and move forward.

Elaine:
Or, how do I not get distracted by something else and stay focused? Right? Both of those are challenges that they face and we want to help them understand that those are their challenges so that they can learn to manage them.

Diane:
So the two laws are, work together to find out what works for them and what doesn't. Don't demonize it because this is a reality and you really need to teach them the skills about how to have a healthy relationship with technology and help them to become more conscious of what really is going on.

Elaine:
And know that this is going to be a conversation that happens over time. Helping kids manage technology is not a one-time thing -- it’s about preparing them for their lives.

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