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  • Sara Minges, M.S., Overland Park, KS

5 Parenting Tips to Avoid A Technology Takeover


Technology is not the bad guy. It can be a fun, engaging, convenient tool for daily living. Nothing more, nothing less. It is OVERUSE of technology that causes problems, not technology itself. Honestly ask yourself, are you using it as a tool or a crutch? Has it replaced family fun night, ball games, and playing at the park?

Growing up, we never had an Xbox, Game Boy or Nintendo. We had a tv and an old PC computer for the evenings my dad needed to work at home, Yes, we played video games like Defender, Oregon Trail, Where in The World Is Carmen San Diego, Wheel of Fortune, Pinball and Tetris, my all-time favorite.

Hours were spent playing video games on the computer but this never got in the way of homework, weekend adventures or Friday family fun night. Playing, connecting and laughing with family in the same house was always more preferable than a video game. Sometimes we played as a family, but games were mainly for passing the time until dinner was ready.

UPSIDE OF TECHNOLOGY

I am DIRECTIONALLY IMPAIRED. I can't tell you if I am going North, South, East or West, only left or right. I've also been known to turn left when the passenger is giving me directions to turn right. Thus, Google Maps is my favorite driving companion! I used to have a clunky Garmin navigation system that was a bit slow and didn't always lead in the right direction.

Google maps syncs directly to the Blue Tooth in my car, lets me listen to Pandora while driving and is accurate 95% of the time. It makes driving so much easier! Fifteen years ago, I was a a case manager in KC, MO, traveling all over the metro area to meet families in their home. I believe that job would have been a lot less stressful if GPS had been available.

TETRIS is another great technology tool. It is good for your mental health, as it increases grey matter in your brain (we want this), reduces PTSD flashbacks and addiction cravings, and improves depth and visual perception. I KNOW, I was excited to discover this too!, TOO!

TECHNOLOGY IS NOT A BABY-SITTER

PARENTS, time for TOUGH LOVE! Technology is not a baby-sitter. Yes, parents need a break sometimes and can't be on 24/7. Before cell phones and Ipads, kids gave their parents a break and engaged in imaginative play, making forts with sheets and sofa cushions, completing Paint by Numbers pictures, read adventure books, played outside and spent time at community centers.

Yes, kids and teens watched cartoons on Saturday mornings or 30 minute family sitcoms to pass the time. Maybe several shows in a row, but often in the family room surrounded by others, laughing, joking, commenting on the character's dilemmas. Rarely, did they sit for hours on end in front of a tv screen in their bedroom with the door closed.

It's all about BALANCE!

Here are a few guidelines to stop technology from taking over.

1. TECHNOLOGY FREE DINNERTIME. Set rules for everyone to follow around technology use such as no tech at the dinner table for the entire family, including smartphones, Ipads, Apple watches, Fitbits, you name it. Parents, your job will survive for an hour without you, unless you are an ER doctor or on call. Those are the exceptions.

2. MAKE FAMILY TIME A PRIORITY. Parents, you are at home. Enjoy this time with your kids and spouse. It is time you will never get back! If you need to stay at work late to finish a project and devote an hour of time when you are home to work tasks, let your family know. And keep it to an hour.

3. TECHNOLOGY IS A PRIVILEGE NOT A RIGHT. Be honest with yourselves. Do your kids act entitled to watch Youtube videos, stream Netflix or play online games for hours on end? Last year, did they struggle with their grades, school behavior or completing chores due to excessive technology use?

4. TECHNOLOGY CODE OF CONDUCT. Somehow, people seem to like,, share and comment on things they would never say or support in person, yet they get trigger happy when using social media. Parents do this too. Establish a family Code of Conduct regarding social media use. Talk about what to do if they read about a classmate or another person being bullied, feeling depressed or wanting to hurt themselves or someone else. Remind your kids and teens that being nice to others in person and on social media is an expectation for the privilege to use social media.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING. Parents, do you monitor your child's social media accounts? Are their posts respectful and positive and representative of kindness towards others? Do your kids and teens understand how hurtful social media posts can be? Do you know what movies are in your teen's Netfix queue? If not, check it now. Make sure you have passwords for all of their social media accounts.

Parents, here are some signs your child or teen may need professional support to learn to manage technology use in a healthy way:

1. Relationship exists between Increased technology usage and poor grades.

2. Lack of interest in activities that do not involve technology.

3. Tantrums when you set limits around technology use.

4. 3+ hours per day spent on non-academic technology use.

5. Frantic efforts to increase technology usage regardless of consequences.

6. Increased irritability/anger after playing video games

To schedule an appointment, call Sara @ 913-244-8786.

Until next time.

Sara Minges, LPC

#technology #socialmedia #parenting #playtherapy #technologyguidelinesforparents #unpluggedplay #socialmediaetiquette #technologytantrums

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