Read Time - 5 min
As a parent in the digital age you have probably tried to be proactive about helping your children develop a positive relationship with technology. Some parents implement strict screen time restrictions, others go so far as sending their little ones to tech-free schools. However, no matter how stringent your rules are, your kids will struggle to resist the lure of screens unless you address your own tech addiction. As such, it’s worth learning about the influence of parental habits on children, as well as the steps you can take to set a good example.
According to a psychological concept known as social learning theory, children learn how to navigate the world by imitating adult behaviors. While many of us instinctively know that children learn habits from their parents, this theory is well-evidenced in scientific literature. For example, parents have a powerful influence over their child’s eating behaviors, providing models for culturally appropriate consumption habits and teaching them how to eat a nutritious diet. When parents adopt problematic behaviors such as severely restricting their calorie intake, studies show that their children are more likely to develop disordered eating habits and become preoccupied with their weight.
Similarly, teenagers are inclined to adopt exercise habits similar to those of their parents and are more likely to start smoking if their parent smokes. Practicing responsible money management is also an effective way to instill responsible budgetary behaviors in young people. Whatever your noblest habits or most frustrating shortcomings, your children are watching, learning, and emulating. With this in mind, it’s no surprise researchers are already uncovering a link between parents’ excessive use of smartphones and teenage screen addiction.
If you’re worried about the possibility of passing a smartphone addiction on to your kids, don’t fret. There are many steps you can take to improve your relationship with digital technology and promote a healthy attitude toward screens. Strategies to try could include:
Reducing screen time as a household will make restrictions feel less like a punishment and more like a collective project. If your kids see you using your smartphone while they’re unable to play their favorite games or browse through social media, they may question the purpose behind the restrictions. In some cases, kids may feel resentful and try to break the rules in secret. So, what kind of limits should you consider implementing? Effective strategies could include:
One of the primary reasons parents struggle to manage their screen time is that they’re constantly working. With around 70% of working parents struggling to manage their professional and family responsibilities, it’s no wonder many of us are sending emails during our supposed downtime. If you want to avoid bringing work home, it’s worth speaking with your employer about your workload and setting clear expectations about when you’ll reply to emails. As well as reducing your stress levels, this simple step could teach your kids how to maintain a healthy work-life balance further down the line.
Spending time on tech-free activities such as walking in nature, visiting an art gallery, or reading books together is a great way to pull your family away from their screens and show them the benefits of social activities. Although screens can be alluring, they’re also alienating and can prevent us from enjoying many of life’s pleasures. Providing your kids with fun activities could encourage them to forget about their smartphones and strengthen your bond in the long term.
If your child is starting to show signs of screen addiction, such as a preoccupation with their digital devices, restlessness, mood swings, or using screens in secret, it’s worth talking openly about their struggles. Empathizing and admitting your own tendencies to scroll through social media could help them feel less alone and more willing to overcome their issues. However, if you’re worried about your child’s mental health, it’s worth seeking support and guidance from experts or a support group.
Tools such as productivity apps will reduce your family members’ screen time by imposing time limits and tracking phone usage stats. You could even use your results to run a competition whereby the lowest screen time wins. Remember to put a positive spin on your new resolution and have some fun in the process!
As you can see, the benefits of managing your screen time could trickle down to your kids while improving your overall wellbeing. Of course, the list above isn’t exhaustive. If you’re looking to set a good example for your kids, feel free to follow your instincts and consider a range of techniques for reducing your screen time and improving your relationship with technology.