Talking Technology with Teens: Part III – Healthy Habits Households

When working out how to improve healthy screen habits in your household, it can help to have a CLEAR Plan. When dealing with technology use (and overuse), most parents don’t think carefully when implementing rules around technology use. Common mistakes include making up rules as you go along, addressing screen overuse only when angry and inconsistent application of the rules. It is much more effective to have a clear, shared understanding about what is expected amongst all family members. The following framework can help with this.

Communication

Limits

Exceptions

Assess

Reinforcement (or rewards)

Communication:

The two previous blog posts have some tips about talking technology with teens. When implementing a plan, the first step is finding the right moment to talk. Good times are when you are alone and there are few distractions. If you have children of quite different ages, or different usage patterns of technology, it is probably better to have separate conversations. If not, you may consider having a family meeting. It is preferable that all adults in the household are part of the conversation. If this is not feasible, ensure that the adult(s) who are not present are on-board with the plan. Kids can divide and conquer!

 

Limits:

The main focus of the plan is to place limits on digital use. These limits should address the when, where and what of technology use in your household.

When: Consider a curfew for weekends and weeknights. Consider the tasks (e.g. homework and chores) that should be completed prior to technology entertainment.

Where: Some computer use is better to happen in the family area, rather than behind closed doors. Is there any reason that your family members should sleep next to their phones?

What: Which types of content are unacceptable (e.g. sexual material)? Which types of activities are not-on (e.g. cyberbullying)?

 

Exceptions:

Remember – this plan is aimed at changing habits, not at cutting out all opportunities to use technology. Be forgiving about lapses from the plan, especially during periods where routine is disrupted. Like it or not, online activities are now the most common way adults and young people spend their leisure time. When doing something out of the ordinary, like travelling on a long car ride, technology can help everyone make it through. Rigid adherence to any plan is sure to lead to failure and makes everyone lose faith in any future plans. Don’t give up if the plan just because exceptional circumstances mean the rules haven’t been followed for a period of time.

 

Assess:

Don’t set and forget! Behaviours which are not measured, do not change. Make sure you set a time in the future to meet and discuss how the plan is going. Keep the parts that are working. Tweak the parts that are not. And don’t forget, good behaviour deserves rewards…

 

Reinforcement (or rewards):

Consider the consequences of your family members sticking to the plan or breaking the plan. With younger children you may use sticker charts. Older children’s pocket money may be affected by how well they stick to the plan. But remember, the best consequences are natural consequences. The natural consequence of sticking to the plan is trust. Children who are good at sticking to the plan should have fewer restrictions, and children who have difficulty sticking to the plan will have greater restrictions in future. Make it clear to your children that sticking to the plan will increase trust, which means fewer restrictions in future.

 

Good Luck!!!

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