‘Tis the season to think about giving and now more than ever, those gifts are likely gadgets. There’s no question tech gifts are at the top of the list for our children and families, but should it be an automatic? We want the holidays to be filled with magic and meaning, surprise and wonder, and there’s no question that tech can make it all possible. But how do we know if now is the right time to introduce, upgrade or enhance the digital devices in our lives?
As a mother of five children from second grade to high school sophomore, I always ask myself the same set of questions before considering new tech. And in my work in digital health and well-being, I offer it to other families as a guide at the holidays or anytime. This assessment is mostly reflective and the conclusions aren’t right or wrong, but an attempt to heighten the awareness of the needs and intentions of your family’s digital life. While the prompts may seem like a lot to consider – they should! We want to set up our families for tech success. We don’t want to add more struggles. Giving technology should be part of a greater process and these questions are a valuable place to begin.
- Values: What principles and cornerstones guide my parenting? When I identify them, how will they apply to digital parenting?
- Parent Readiness: What is my level of digital fluency? Am I prepared to parent the tech? What am I modeling in my own digital life?
- Family Communication: Are we comfortable talking about issues (big and small) that come up? How do we solve conflict at home? Have we outlined consequences for certain behavior?
- Expense: After the initial gift giving, who will pay for a monthly service? What are the procedures in place if it breaks? Who will pay for music, games, apps and other add ons?
- Schoolwork: How are her grades? What kind of student is she? Are we struggling over homework, organization and distractions already?
- Social Relationships: What are his relationships like to his peers away from the screens? Is he interacting with his peers in real life?
- Physical Activity & Health: Is she going outside for fresh air? Does she have time for active or creative/imaginative play? Do we have good sleep routines? Is she getting enough rest or are we struggling over bedtime?
- Contribution to the Family System: Is he doing what is asked of him? Is he meeting our expectations for chores, behavior, and cooperation?
- Relationship to Other Tech: How does he interact with the gaming system we have or the apps on the family iPad? What will it be like when he has his own device?
- The Outside World: Is she confident finding her way, asking for help and trying new things? Will the device become her whole world?