Thank you to Verizon for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions are my own.
My family is one of my top life priorities. As many of my longtime readers know, I totally switched careers 13 years ago when I gave birth to my first son Michael so that I could work around my family’s schedule instead of vice versa. I am the first to admit without apology that I’m as protective as a mother lion when it comes to sparing my family from harm. As our kids get older, there are new potential dangers – both obvious and not so obvious ones. Overuse of mobile phones falls in the latter category. Since Michael received his first cell phone earlier this year when he turned 13-years-old, I am pleased to partner with FamilyBase by Verizon to share four tips that my family has been using to prevent mobile use from harming our family life. So far, so good…
4 Tips to Balance Technology
- Setting clear boundaries starts at home but doesn’t end there. That is why we don’t allow our kids to use mobile phones at school during the school day. It’s fine for him to take it with him to use before and after school though. (My husband Reggie is a public school teacher so he has strong opinions about appropriate school behavior!)
- I was having a conversation with the school crossing guard and she mentioned that she has to constantly remind kids not to be focused on their phones while crossing the streets. I hadn’t even thought of that precaution but quickly implemented the guideline that there would be no looking at cell phones while crossing the streets. At first, Michael was a bit dismissive in his response so I showed him videos of people getting hit by cars as they crossed the street because they were more focused on their phones than on what was going on around them. My goal is not for our kids to be afraid of the world but to be aware. Knowledge is powerful. Of the 4 tips, this is the one that I am the most adamant about. If I hear from another adult that Michael was focused on his phone while crossing the street, he is going to lose his phone privileges for a while. As I told him, “I’d rather that you lose your phone than lose your life!”
- There are no phones (or any other online devices) at family meal times. I know that this can be a difficult area for parents to role model, but it’s not optional in our home. Family meals are a time for us to enjoy each other’s company. That can’t happen if we’re ignoring one another. As such, it is not too much to expect everyone to stop checking their devices for half an hour to an hour. We survive.
- There is no checking mobile phones after bedtime. As long as the kids fall within the amounts recommended by the American Sleep Association, we are not a stickler about the actual bedtime. However, Michael doesn’t use his phone once he goes to bed. We want him to get enough sleep and to be well rested and able to concentrate the next day. I’ll admit that this is a challenging area for me personally. Social media is part of my job but it can also be my Kryptonite. That is why I leave my phone in my bathroom instead of my bedroom at night. (That…and the fact that it makes me have to get up and walk to turn off its alarm in the morning to start my day.)
1 Tool to Balance Technology
Kids have the potential to be online several hours a day and even more on weekends and holidays so it’s important for us parents to have some safeguards in place. That is why I appreciate services like FamilyBase by Verizon, which only costs an extra $4.99 per month (and the first month is free!) for current Verizon customers. Standout features include the ability to help parents:
-Monitor the activity of each device on your account. Understand what your kids are doing online. What are they watching and listening to? You can even view your child’s text and call history. (Although part of Michael’s cell phone “contract” with my husband and I is that we have the option to check anything on his phone at any time, checking his texts is not something that I do. I prefer to give my kids as much freedom and trust as they can handle. Then again, he’s only 13. I’ll see how I “feel” as he gets older.)
-Set safeguards and controls. Once we know what is happening online, this service gives us the option to restrict access to unsuitable content or apps if we need to do so. You also have the ability to block contacts that you don’t want your kids to access.
-Set usage limits for each device. Kids’ data usage can be out of control leading to unexpected overage charges. This particular feature helps your kids learn how to be mindful when using their devices. (Learning how often and when they can use their phone is actually a great life skill. It’s kind of like a technology budget!)
As we can see, technology has the potential to disrupt family life and well-being when clear boundaries are not set and parental behavior fails to be a good model to follow. Fortunately, technology can also be used to combat some of these issues. I definitely recommend that you consider a service like FamilyBase in your pursuit of having a safe and healthy use of technology for your family. It definitely helps parents support the right balance between device time and family time. As parents, we can use all of the support that we can get!