Technology 101: Safety, Balance, and Awareness

Tech

A guest blog by Kevin Roberts

Technology is almost a sentient being, having a will of its own that projects itself inexorably into our lives.  While these ubiquitous devices, that often feel like extensions of ourselves, have extraordinary benefits, use of them has an impact on the brain.

The brain has an internal gardener that is forever pruning back some neural networks, while allowing others to grow and thrive. We must keep this in mind as we consider child development in the digital age. How much screen time is too much? How do we help our children achieve balance? Which cyber activities are the most beneficial, and which carry the greatest risks? To answer these questions, we need to take a developmental approach, one that is mindful of the milestones children need to complete at different stages in their growth.

The goals for the school-age child, let’s say 6-10 years of age, are to reinforce the development of real-world skills and a sense of competence or mastery. They also need to become adept at establishing and maintaining relationships with peers, along with playing in ways that foster the ability to resolve conflict and to strategize. They must acquire in these early years the ability to control themselves, or self-regulate, and parents need to help them begin to learn responsibility by doing homework, chores around the house, and getting themselves ready for school and other duties.

One of the great risks during this stage is that video games, and games on the smart phone, will become a primary source of entertainment, and a substitute for adventure. When this happens, we often see stagnation in social skills, and even avoidance of interaction with adults. In addition, children who get heavily engaged in these activities neglect homework and household chores.

This is becoming increasingly common! A tendency toward excessive, or even addictive, indulgence in cyber-based amusements also seems to be rooted in these early years. Therefore, it become crucial for parents to take steps to foster a family dynamic that sets limits and expectations for technology, as well encourage discussion around this topic, especially with regards to & Internet safety.

In my book, Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap, I recommend that families make technology a frequent topic of discussion. Consider putting in place the following recommendations that are designed to help you raise balanced and competent children, as well as to maximize family time.

Kevin’s Top Five Technology Tips:

  1. Have at least some tech-free time as a family. Don’t allow smart phones at the dinner table, for example.
  2. In addition to tech-free time, have tech-free zones. Many families I work with choose to use the family room for this purpose. Cell phones, video game consoles, laptops, iPads, and computers are not allowed in there.
  3. Set a maximum time allowed on video games and the computer. I recommend no more than two hours a day.
  4. Each minute spent on the computer or video game, requires a minute of exercise.  This will allow you to combat the tendency for technology to create sedentary and obese children.
  5. No TV’s, computers, or video game consoles in the bedroom.

Incidentally, parents must follow these rules too! If you allow your children to police you as well, it will empower them, and serve to create a more harmonious and balanced family. With these steps, parents can communicate the all-important principle that Internet access is not a right but rather a privilege. Meeting target behaviors and certain expectations are required in order to receive and maintain that privilege.

These early school years are also a good time to start teaching about Internet safety. They need to be made aware of several important factors:

  1. Passwords are not to be shared.
  2. Screen names should not convey identifying information.
  3. Never give out your address, age or phone number online.
  4. Report any bullying activities to a parent.
  5. If someone you do not know is trying to converse with you online, do not respond and always tell a parent.

As your child gets close to the teen years, this discussion should include mention of sending out inappropriate material via text, social networking, and email, and discuss legal ramifications of such activities. In addition, of course, you should make your teen aware that anything he or she posts online could become part of an enduring record that might come back to haunt him or her. In next week’s post, I will go into the implications of technology for teens in greater depth. No matter what the age group, however, the overriding principles are the same:  safety, balance, and awareness.

 

 

Cyber Junkie:  Escape the Internet and Gaming Trap (Hazelden 2010). He has trained therapists, physicians, nurses, teachers, parents, and school administrators on the perils of the Internet and video games, as well as ADHD. He has worked with many homeschooling families to develop stimulating and adventurous curricula. 

Roberts is the cofounder, board member, and curriculum developer of The EmpowerADD Project (www.empoweradd.org), a non-profit organization that supports ADHD young adults into lives of successful purpose. His second book, on ADHD, will be released with Hazelden Publishing in May 2012: Movers, Dreamers, and Risk Takers: Unlocking the Power of ADHD. Roberts is a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.

 

 

 

Image source: Dinner Tool

  • Jlane

    Brilliant post Kevin. Always helping others

  • R.E.W.

    I have read Kevin Roberts first book and I plan on reading his next release. I have found his advise to be sound based upon real life experience and principles. Kevin takes a common sense approach to his teachings and I find them easily applicable to almost any situation. I wholeheartedly agree with his blog and feel that more families should follow his advise.

  • Alex

    This is information every family should have. I will definitely look into buying that book Kevin!

  • Mary Antonelli

    I think “Technology 1012″ should be the name of a manual that newborn babies come with. It is so difficulty for parents who are not tech savvy to deal with children who have grown up in the technology age. This article is great but just scratches the surface. I think you should revisit this topic in greater detail!

    • Mary Antonelli

      I meant “Technology 101″ no 1012. Sorry about that!

  • Dilly

    wow great artical, and i absolutly agree that the parents/gardians should obay the rules as well.

  • M. Weinstein

    I think as parents that we do not these days take very good care to involve ourselves in the cyber acitivities of our children. Many of us, including me, let our children while away hours on the computer or in front of the video game screen. Perhaps even more disturbing is the prominent place of the smart phone in the lives of our children, almost as if they have a cyber appendage that never leaves them. When we take away their phones, they react as if we have done them grave bodily harm. The author makes a great point that we need to beging when they are young by communicating that technology is a privilege, NOT A RIGHT. I wish I had done this in those early years. I am going to get Roberts’ book, Cyber Junkie, as I think that might help me make some progress now. I read some good reviews of it on Amazon and now that I read this blog, think I am ready.

    I guess I wish someone would have warned me a lot sooner. It just seems like I am fighting a losing battle with my teenagers, or as I have read, SCREEN-AGERs! Thank you for being the voice of reason and support in this battle.

  • Clerkenwellwc1x

    Grat article. A to do list for every parent.

  • E.Sines

    Thank you Kevin. Very sound advice that we all need to be reminded of frequently in this age of constant exposure to screens. My 3 kids all need different limitations based on age and levels of cyber addictions! It takes a lot of policing and can be exhausting. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Degas777

    Very good to read read this Kevin . Thank you very much :) you make this so clear and simple understand ! Reading your book has open my eyes alot and changed the the way I think about the internet trap . Great idea to have tech free zones !!! Best regards from Iceland

  • L Royse

    Great info Kevin! There are so many parents out there that just don’t want to be bothered to monitor their kids. It’s NOT easy, but very necessary. Empowering them to make better choices is a process which isn’t easy to teach in this instant gratification society we live in. Keep up the great work you do! We are most appreciative : )

  • Blirwin

    Excellent info! . Thank you for posting this in a concise and understandable way for parents.

  • Adam

    this is an insightful and valuable article on a topic that gets overlooked. Good read

  • Jenn

    Great, insightful article! I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with ways to get my kids to unplug. I love your idea to make kids exercise for every minute they’re on the net- now let’s see if I can get them to follow through with it. Thanks for the great read!

  • A.H.

    My mom is actually the technology junkie and i will be having her read this. What is the best place to get Mr.Robert’s book?

  • Elijah Wallace

    Hell, that’s great advice for anybody. I think even most adults could benefit from one minute of tech time = one minute of exercise. Stumbled on this, great article. I think I saw this book at Barnes and Nobles, and I think I may have to just check it out next time I’m in there to get my woodworking magazines.

  • Cara

    You cannot argue with common sense! I need to take heed of this advice myself. I only use the internet on my laptop but know if I had a smart phone with apps I would be like the them. folks I see everywhere ignoring the people around them and oblivious to adventure opportunities that surround. I love the everyday adventure and need to remember this when I NEVER sign off my laptop. I need the one minute of exercise rule for one minute of technology.

  • MOCHADD

    Thank you for the great tips on how to leverage screen time with active green time for our children. While we wish it wasn’t, technology in excess is so common place.
    Pointing out that parents, no matter how innocuous their behavior may seem, children surely do what you do, rather than what you say. Staying mindful and setting a good example, will effect the change you wish to see. Bravo.