Tech Presents for Kids: Tips for Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Stephanie Burstein, MS, LMFT

The holidays are here and shopping has begun. At the top of everyone’s holiday wish list are electronics. Even our littlest loved ones are enamored with the latest and greatest gadgets. Who could blame them? Our world runs on technology and our kids are part of that world. Whether they are using electronics for school or entertainment, the demand exists. And as every parent knows, finding the right balance for electronics is tricky. How do you give the gift of technology to your child without them turning into zombies?

The most effective step to take when giving your child a phone, iPad or other gadget is to set limits immediately. Yes, that even means the first night they have their new toy!

Here are a few other guidelines to follow:

1. Set time limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one hour of screen time for children ages 2-5 years old. Consistent time limits should be in place for children over the age of 6. An example would be allowing kids access to their electronic device for 10-15 minutes immediately after school. You can then block out another 10-15 minutes after homework or other school activities are completed. As children grow older, their access to technology will vary based on appropriate behaviors and responsibility.

2. Specify charging areas. Have a designated charging station in your bedroom, not your kid’s bedroom. By limiting where electronics are charged, you will help establish boundaries and reinforce time limits.

3. Establish electronic free zones. Create electronic free times for everyone. Ideas include electronic free meal times, family movie nights, and family outings that are focused on relationship building.

4. Monitor online activity. Remember, it’s not just your child interacting with the Internet. The Internet is also interacting with your child. Keep track of passwords to all electronic devices, social media accounts, game apps, and other online activities. Start device checks when you kids are young. As your kids turn into teens, routine checks will be something that they are already used to. Check with your mobile provider for monitoring tools, or visit apple.com/families for helpful time management and monitoring suggestions.

5. Keep activity age appropriate. Be aware of the latest games, social media, and online trends. A quick Google search can give you insight about the apps your kids are using. It’s also helpful for parents to have their own accounts on popular sites (Instagram, Snapchat, etc), which will help you monitor and understand how the technology is used. Research which apps are appropriate for your child’s current age range.

6. Modeling is key! Children are watching your every move and learning from the example you provide. If you are constantly plugged in, your kids will believe that is the norm. Model moderation and keep the conversation open about technology.

 When it comes to gifting technology, keep Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch in mind:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The best gift you can give is your presence. Let us all remember to put down our electronics and spend time together with our families. Happy holidays!

Contributor: Stephanie Burstein, MS, LMFT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

 

Introducing CALM: Stress Reduction & Mindfulness for Teens

Shutt Fav Headshot (1)Modern life has many amenitites that simplify and automate our lives; however, daily demands continue to grow rapidly.  Technological advances streamline tasks while simultaneously keep us connected to social media, news, and email.  We have at our fingertips the ability to reap the benefits of a less stressful lifestyle, but we often pursue the path of more rather than less.  Besides the obvious negative impact on our own health, modeling this more and more lifestyle has consquenses for our children as well.  (Don’t worry! Nonjudgment…I’ve made many of these choices too.) Recognizing stress motivates us parents to incorporate stress reduction practices into our own lives.  How do we then identify and incorporate stress reduction into the lives of our children?

Some stress is part of everday living.  In teenagers, many stressful life expereinces are often part of the norm.  Mild stress can be helpful to motivate one to complete difficult taks and reach important goals.  However, excessive and/or chronic stress in teens may result in a downward spiral of emotional and physical problems.  Common signs of stress in teens include:

Difficulty sleeping

Changes in appetite (too much or too little)

Excessive worry thoughts

Avoidance of social situations and activities

Frequent illness

Headaches and stomachaches

Extreme anger or sadness (reacts or overreacts)

Substance abuse

Parents who have identified stress related symptoms, anxiety, or depression in their child or adolescent might have already sought psychotherapy treatment. In addition to therapy, research has demonstrated that mindfulness is an effective tool for reducing stress, offering teens a way out of suffering and reducing risk to complications that arise from untreated anxiety and depression (including dropping out of school, addiction, and suicide).  Mindfulness can also help with the everyday challenges of being a teen, such as college testing and applications, homework, extracurricular activities and social relationships.  Offering teens an alternative way of building stress resiliency before they breakdown can be an excellent preventative medicine tool.  Some tips to incorporate mindfulness into your teen’s life include:

1. Disconnect!  Even if it is only for 20 minutes, remind your teen that downtime is important.  Turn off the technology and focus on breathing.  Breathe in a full breath (fuller than usual) and very slowly exhale, feeling the sensations of letting go.  With each exhale, there is a softening of the body.  Repeat.

2. Naming. When you are stressed, take time to pause, identify and name your emotions and thoughts.  Ask yourself, “Is this really true?”  Check the facts and see if there are any exaggeration of thoughts or catastrophic beliefs.  What can you realistically do about it now?  If nothing else, practice letting go.  Reframe by thinking, “I am feeling stressed about _____ and I intend to do _______ about it, or I am going to let this go for now.

3. If your mind is racing and overwhelmed with too many thoughts, STOP.  Stop everying.  Take a deep breath, Observe your breath, Proceed mindfully with just one thought.

Utilizing these easy tools now will provide teens with a lifetime of healthy coping mechanisms.  To advance your teen’s mindfulness knowledge even further, learn more about CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop at Sacred Treehouse.  This workshop will teach teens techniques to help cultivate acceptance and live mindfully.  Classes will include gentle yoga and stretching, mindful meditation, group discussion, and self-reflection activities. 

Wishing you and your children health, joy, and peace. 

– Dr. Patty Shutt

CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop will begin on Saturday, October 24th, 3:30-5:00 p.m.  For more information, please call 561-278-6033.