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

 

Coping After Parkland

Dr. Patty Shutt

Here we are again. Parents and their children are left struggling with difficult emotions and traumatic memories after the most recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Even if you weren’t directly impacted, you may find that emotions are running high within your household.   Anxiety, fear, sadness, uncertainty, and helplessness are all common reactions to a traumatic event. Children may have many questions about the recent tragedy – questions that can be uncomfortable and difficult for parents to answer. Moreover, children already predisposed to anxiety and depression are especially vulnerable. As a parent, here are some things you can do to help you child cope effectively:

  • Listen and allow your child to react in an authentic way. Be honest with your children and answer their questions with as much information as you are able to provide, using developmentally appropriate practices.
  • Take a news and social media break. Minimize and supervise your child’s access to media coverage. For younger children, this can be as simple as turning off the television. For adolescents, monitor their exposure and set limits on social media.
  • As much as possible, keep normal routines in place.
  • Participate in community events such as community vigils, fundraising efforts, social action projects, or faith-based activities.
  • Focus on the positive. Point out random acts of kindness and good deeds. Reminisce about a happy moment.
  • Pay attention to worsening anxiety or depression. If your child has trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating, it may be time to reach out for professional help. Make an appointment with a therapist, or consult with your pediatrician regarding referrals to a professional. School counselors and religious leader also may be able to help.

It is especially important for parents and adults to deal with their own stress levels regarding the traumatic event. Take time to process the event appropriately and remember to model reassuring behavior for your children. Navigating tragedies effectively now will help build your child’s resiliency to future setbacks and tragedies.

If you need support or counseling during this difficult time, please reach out to Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches at 561-278-6033 or admin@delrayoasis.com.

Patricia Shutt, Psy.D., CEDS, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a co-founder of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach. In addition to private therapy, Dr. Shutt also facilitates group therapy, teaches meditation, facilitates an 8-week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and moderates specialized workshops and trainings.

Sources cited:
http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/help-kids-feel-safe.html
https://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors/professional-development/learn-more/shooting-resources