With the holiday season upon us, we’re sure everyone in your home is adding a new laptop, smart phone, tablet, or video game to their gift list! For many children it may be their first phone or personal device. With this in mind, the SET team would like to share some tips and resources on healthy and balanced guidelines for families around technology and device gift-giving.
While it’s exciting to receive a new device or game, it’s important that parents think about guidelines for device use ahead of gift-giving. One way to do this is to be prepared with a family media contract once the gifts are opened. Family media contracts help create firm boundaries around your child’s use of devices and video games and help set clear expectations for:
· how much time a child can spend on a device or game daily
· when and where devices are allowed to be used in your home and car
· how you as parents will monitor their device, video game and social media use In addition to creating and honoring a family media contract, consider device free dinners or device free zones in your home as well. Creating device-free times and spaces provide students the necessary time to disconnect and to spend quality time as a family. Modeling healthy ways to engage with and without devices and media use, for example, finding opportunities for unplugged activities, staying consistent with screen-free zones, communicating with others respectfully, and limiting what information is posted online is imperative to support the development of healthy habits around use.
Making sure devices, video games, and participation in social media accounts are developmentally appropriate for a child is another important consideration. Devices, electronic entertainment, video games, and various social media apps and sites are suitable for different developmental ages, just like any other gift on a wish list. Listen to why your child wants a particular new device or game and share your thoughts with them. It may also be important to update others about what your family media expectations and values entail before your child unwraps an unexpected gift from grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Asking family to check in with you prior to purchasing devices or video games or offering suggestions for gifts could be some ways to avoid sticky situations. If your child does tear open the newest violent video game, simply reaffirm and remind your child of your family media rules, exchange the gift, or make a donation to a local charity.
You might think back to your own childhood—which gifts were meaningful and memorable for you? Why did they stick with you? Sometimes it may be the simplest of all gifts that we found most thoughtful, or the traditions we create by spending time with family. Most likely those memories entailed “unplugged” time with family. Consider ways that you can engage your child in screen-free family time – decorating your home, cooking holiday treats, sledding, and having a snowball fight. New technology is an exciting gift, made better if we help children develop healthy habits.