Back to School, Back to Balancing life with Technology

Back to school is one of the most effective times to initiate new rules and routines. Children take no time at all to master new protocols but now they are more tempted to go to a device first and forget about their tasks. By establishing rules and routines in your home, children will be learning more than just one aspect of housework, they are learning to become an adult.  More importantly, they will become a more responsible and confident adult.

Setting up boundaries with Hand Held Devices and Gaming Centers will bring balance back to your family. Children will listen with less irritability and know what is expected of them. Over the past 2 decades, a sociological shift in parenting has occurred right before our eyes. It is everywhere, “Helicoptering Parents”, “The Bulldozer Parent”, “The Parent who is their Best friend PARENT”, “The Lawnmower Parent”, however, the most damaging components of all of these styles are: the lack of discipline, the freedom the children have and the power parents are giving their children. These styles are not preparing children for today’s world!  I will reference the article just written about, “Lawn Mower Parents”, by We are Teachers Staff. To summarize, parents will go to any lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle or failure. Allowing are children to have technology when they want and for how long they want, gives them power. It fulfills their needs, but screens delay children socially, physically, athletically and mentally.

My goal is simple, to help parents navigate this gauntlet of Technology because, let’s be frank, we are all guinea pigs in this world now.Larissa Mills

My goal is simple, to help parents navigate this gauntlet of Technology because, let’s be frank, we are all guinea pigs in this world now. The only resources parents possess are medical ones that are reliable and reputable and the advice from parents who have raised happy, healthy, productive children to adulthood. So, let’s make plans and balance out the technology in your family, so that your children are happier, outside more and will listen to what you have to say. If you create solid rules and monitor them, it will be a smoother ride during the year.

Here are some tips that families have shared to make their lives more balanced with technology. When kids go back to school (don’t get too excited parents). Dr. Michelle Ponti, from, “The Canadian Paediatric Society Task Force” has recommended that a child is only allowed 1 hour on a phone or device daily.  With this in mind, here are some tips and ideas to think about.  Please remember, these are only suggestions and every family’s needs are different and require different things to make their family’s dynamics work.

Ideas and Tips to help Balance Families with Technology!

(Children too young to be home alone after school).

  • If you can stay and play after school this will help children blow off more steam. It will encourage children to socialize and exercise a bit more.
  • Staying after school to play, gives parents an opportunity to observe who their child plays with and what they are like in the school setting.
  • Once you are home, have a snack. Whatever you do, don’t ask them how their day was. Ask them specific questions like: “Did you have Music today”? “Who did you play with at recess”? Did you have Math? What would you like to do this weekend? Etc.
  • Create a schedule together that works for your family around all of your activities. Assess when your child can play on their device or gaming device. For example, if two kids are home and you need to go down to do laundry or cut the grass is this the best time for a device?
  • If you have a timer on their device, set it and let them play. Please think of all the controls before handing a device to a child. Is the browser off? Make sure they can just access their games and that no social media is on. If you can plan it around dinner prep, it can work in your favour. This way, you can monitor them and enjoy chatting while you finish your tasks at the same time.
  • If one child has to go to, dance/soccer/Violin and you need to take another child with you, then plan a bag of games. Include; books, colouring, toys, cards, this will help to spend special time together. Making children feel special and wanted builds confidence and makes them flourish. These two feelings are extremely important when thinking long term of their mental health.
  • If you have errands to run, some parents find it easier to run them with one child, while one is at hockey, soccer or swimming. Use this time to talk to your child. Talk to them about their favourite movie, food, music or the weather. Do not give them your phone in the store if you can help it. The Medical community strongly advises not to ignore your child and not to be on your device while they are in the same room. Teachers have collected ‘Letters to Santa’ and asked for their parents to play with them and get off their phones. This would break anyone’s heart, but it breaks your child’s heart the most.
  • No devices or technology at the dinner table. Play music perhaps, but engage with them, every minute you can to make a stronger bond.
  • The after dinner routine for families is becoming increasingly more important now as families are living separate lives in their own homes. Each member is glued to their own device. A startling fact from the, “Common Sense Media’s study”, from 2010 study, stated that kids are on average on their phones for 5.5 hours per day. So, let’s do the math, when you are spending time with them? Play cards, chess, checkers anything.
  • CLEAN UP-Stay together and help clean up after supper. In our house, one is on dishwasher, one cleans, one does the counters, while one of us does the pots. We rotate chores a bit according to who is home that night. Plus, your kids can share their unique musical tastes like, “Jackie Chan”, while you all clean. Please don’t ask for Fortnight Dance demonstrations, they will go on and on.
  • BED TIME-New research has unfortunately revealed children are being read to less and they are not receiving those important hugs of security before they sleep. A study done by the, “Western Australian Study in Children’s Book Reading”, in 2016, found three fifths were being read to less, in the ages of 6-11.  Make time for bed time, it is an extremely important time for their them. Specifically, children feel safer, loved and secure when they have one on one time before bed.. Don’t leave an Ipad, phone, or Tv in their room. Music can be on but don’t leave them with a device they will stay up late with.
  • Choose a healthy time to go to bed. Start your routine 30 minutes before. This completely depends on their age. Adjust bath time accordingly, teeth cleaning and reading. It is suggested they shouldn’t do their reading for school later at night. Try to do their reading for learning earlier before dinner. They will be far more eager and awake.

After school routines for families with older School-age children.

  • Depending on the ages and what parents are comfortable with establish rules and after school routines. Kids are starting to want their independence now. Try to think which days they can have their device that suits your schedule. They are older and need monitoring if you allow Social Media, Youtube etc. (see Social Media guidelines for children on, iparentgen.com.
  • Put a monitoring app on your phone, this way you can tell when they go on and what they are going on. This is crucial. They need to know the phone is not a toy.
  • Families have to consider several factors after school: Homework, Sports, Arts, Activities, House hold chores, etc. Whatever your after school needs are the most important item is to shut off all devices by 7:30pm or an hour before their bedtime. (Recommended by Canadian Paediatric Society)
  • If all parents talked to the other parents in their kids grades and found they shared the same rules and values, you can actually reduce screen time. More importantly, unmonitored Social Media time usually leads to inappropriate behaviour quickly and I have a strategy that can help.
  • I have suggested in my workshops that parents should spend time meeting other parents in their children’s grades. More and more parents are creating, “Online Villages”, parents share their emails and monitor their children for safety and behaviour on their phones. If something inappropriate comes up, one parent just has to say, “Hey folks, you may want to look at the Snap Chat today”. Parents can nip poor behaviours in the butt right away. Online Villages will make your life easier with phones, not harder.
  • Give age appropriate chores after school.
  • Helping kids to be successful at school is formed by the habits parents teach at home. If you want successful, happy kids, keep them off their devices and laughing with you. Funny, this concept has worked for centuries and now there is research that claims parents aren’t saying good night to their children, reading or talking to them.
  • Depending on your families work schedules, children’s days should be relatively routine. Children’s ages will determine what chores and tasks they must complete. With this said, when children experience something different or a new challenge comes their way, they instinctively need to react with, “I can problem solve this out”, not, “Oh my gosh, what should I do?” It is our job to provide them with tools in their arsenals so that problem solve their way out of any situation. Building their confidence through chores and routines will help build their confidence.
  • Typically, kids come home and see their written instructions. In any house hold, it depends on who has what sport or activity. Someone can do the dog poo, cut peppers, put away laundry, feed the cat, dog or fish, do their homework or their work books. Each child can complete their chores and then they can earn their device.
  • BED TIME is more Important for TWEENS AND TEENS-
  • Kids can be reading or writing in a journal before bed. BED must not be 12am which has been found in several studies. I have spoken to parents and they say their child is cranky all the time and sleepy, I thought they were describing a baby, not their teenager. Parents are letting their children stay up late and they are letting stay up on their phones. Parents who seek my services are shocked when I say, “Pull the cord”. If they sleep better, they will behave more civilly, have focus and be able to function at school. In a high school class, I can quickly scan the room and see who was up late and parents, here is my mantra: “Put them to bed early and they won’t be surly”. If children go to bed late, there will be direct consequences from fatigue, here are just a few:
  • They cannot focus or function or retain any information
  • Students who are up late are at the highest risk for Anxiety, Suicide and Depression.
  • The jury is out on whether or not Radiation is something to be concerned about, but I would error on the side of caution. We are all new to this much technology with out any research
  • Children are relying on phones for answers. When children are presented with questions in class, they are breaking down and giving up too quickly and looking to their phone for google.
  • Increase absenteeism is real problem. Teens are up too late on Social Media this causes their anxiety to increase. They are constantly Comparing themselves to others, they are seeing what others have and they don’t, this adds fuel to the building anxiety and they don’t want to go to school.

So, Families, “Balance Heck out of the Tech”!

Larissa Mills, B. A., M.Sc.Ed.
Owner of iparentgen.com
Educator for 20 years!
Mother of Three.

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