The holidays often mean more gatherings and time spent with friends, neighbors, immediate and extended families. This time can also be filled with more tech usage while the kids are home and looking for activities to fill their days off. With no school, the challenge of managing free time with tech time can be emphasized both for parents and for kids.
This struggle is very familiar for parents here at GoGuardian. So we asked them to share a few tips and tricks they’ve implemented within their own household, to help manage these expectations while protecting that precious holiday time spent with their own families. Sure enough, we had some great responses.
Below are a few of these tips that may be helpful for you and your family in these next few weeks:
Give your kids a seat at the table too
“Set up family guidelines with your kids. Technology is a part of their lives in a way that we never experienced, and it’s important to be respectful of their thoughts, even while we are the ones setting the rules. If they feel heard, they are much more likely to work within the family guidelines, and it’s equally as important that the adults follow those rules too.”
~ Shira O'Keefe, Customer Success Manager and mother to an 11-year-old
Implement “Mandatory Fun Time” session
“Three words: Mandatory Fun Time. During school breaks, we set up 1-2 hours of fun time where no devices are allowed. If the weather permits, then they go outside to play. If not, then it’s blanket forts in their room! Another aspect we’ve implemented is we don’t allow electronics when we are out for family events. At the end of the day, I know kids have an innate ability to turn almost anything into a game using their imagination, and sometimes they just need a little bit of encouragement.” ~ Andrew Ardisone, QA Engineer and father of three kids, ages 4, 7, and 9
Establish a family zone
“One of the most impactful things we ever did was to agree as a family that we'd have dinner together every night. That time was always tech-free (no TV, no phone, no computer). We'd make sure to spend anywhere from 30-45 minutes focused on the conversation. My kids today say that was one of the most impactful practices in keeping them grounded and on track. I didn't know it at the time, but modeling what I did want for my kids was better than trying to restrict with a lot of heavy rules. To this day, my daughter asks her friends to stack their phones at the end of the table whenever they go out to eat. That's the sort of thing that makes me feel like I did something right.” ~ Elizabeth Dadanian, VP of People and a mom of two young adults, ages 18 and 20
Set parameters on the device
“During the week, I have my son’s tablet shut down at 8 p.m. At night, he’s able to have access once his homework is done, for one hour. These controls have helped us have limits and stick to them. This has not only been critical to set these parameters, but having the tool of parental controls gives us the chance to reevaluate when that time comes, say, after his birthday, or when he hits a significant achievement milestone.” ~ Ben Shahbaz, Senior Engineering Manager and father of two kids, ages 4 and 8
Showcase tech alternatives early
“Technology is essentially the world at my daughter’s fingertips. It’s a part of our everyday lives, and its allure is extremely understandable. What’s most important with the role of tech is open communication and family activity games because this supports engagement, even at her young age. By setting an example and showing her that screen life is one experience, while an entirely different one when it’s experienced firsthand, I can show that tech can be one tool in the bucket of engaging and fun entertainment and learning options.” ~ Brannon Means, IT Manager, and father to a 2-year-old
Come holiday season, the decision to either give children freedom to enjoy the time off or to encourage bonding with family isn’t an easy one for parents. The need for the latter becomes more complicated with the added factor of visiting family members whose only time with those children might be during holiday breaks. Where does one strike a balance between allowing the children to make their own choices on how to spend their free time and being present during those precious moments for family gatherings? Whether your method is to establish rules, model behavior, or allow your children to make their own choices, consistency and follow-through are key to responsible tech use. Ultimately it’s up to each parent to determine what’s best for their children, but we hope these insights inspire you to find what works for your family.