Children are influenced by their parents’ technology use. This means that being a role model for healthy technology use is a good way to help your child learn to use technology responsibly.

How your technology use influences your child

What you do and say guides your child’s behaviour, attitudes and beliefs in most things, including technology use. Your child is strongly influenced by the way you use technology and is likely to copy what you do.

So, it’s worth thinking about the messages and examples you’re sending your child about technology and its place in your life.

For example, if you enjoy flicking through social media on your phone for a little while and then going for a family walk, it sends your child the message that social media is just one option for entertaining yourself and relaxing. It also gives your child ideas for other ways to spend her time.

However, if you feel worried about being offline for an hour and you get agitated or snappy if this happens, it can send a different message. Likewise, if you sleep with your phone near your bed, take it into the bathroom when you shower, or panic if you misplace it, it might send the message that you really can’t live without a phone.

When parents use technology around their children, it can cause ‘technoference’. This is when technology gets in the way of interactions between parents and children – for example, when parents interrupt a conversation with children to check text messages. Technoference can lead to difficult behaviour in children like whining, hyperactivity and irritability because children might want their parents’ attention but can’t get it with positive behaviour.

Role-modelling healthy technology use

Healthy technology use is about using technology in a balanced, positive and fun way. It’s also about making sure that technology is just one of the ways that you relax, entertain yourself or get your information – not the only way.

Healthy technology use is also what you use technology for, not just how long you use it.

Here are some ideas for healthy technology use that you can use to set a good example for your child:

  • Set aside some phone-free time each day, so you can be ‘in the moment’ with your child. It could be when your child gets home from school or you get home from work, during family mealtimes, when you’re watching your child play sport, and so on.

  • If you get a text message or social media update while you’re talking to someone, especially your child, wait until the conversation is finished before you check it.

  • Try not to have your phone, tablet or laptop in your bedroom at night. Charge your media devices overnight in the kitchen or lounge room, and teach your child to do the same.

  • Switch off the TV at family mealtimes or when it’s ‘on in the background’. You could try listening to some music or a podcast instead.

  • Work together with your child to create a family media plan. Then make sure you follow the guidelines in the plan too!

  • Use technology to keep in touch with family and friends by sending texts, making video calls or using social media.

Try keeping a diary of your technology use for a week. Include all your technology use – TV shows and movies, gaming, social media, texting and so on. If you think you’re using technology more than you’d like to, you could reduce your use, check your phone less often, or plan intensive media use for weekends or as a treat.

Role-modelling healthy social media use

Social media can keep you connected with friends and the community. It can also help you keep up to date with interests, news, your child’s school and sports activities and so on.

If you use and enjoy social media, there are plenty of ways you can be a role model for your child:

  • Regularly check the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Also take care of your digital footprint by being careful about the photos you post and being aware of the photos you’re tagged in. Make sure you’re always respectful in your posts and comments.

  • Talk about how you use social media with your child. This will encourage her to be open about her social media use too. If you share fun content with each other, it can be a great way to talk about the things you both like and think are important.

  • Friend your child on social media. This can be a great way to be a part of your child’s life and share interests. Younger teenagers might be alright with this, but older teenagers might prefer not to friend you.

  • Ask your child for permission before you post a photo of her or share information about her on social media.

If your technology use feels out of control, try to change the ways you use technology and look for support from friends and family or a professional if you’re finding it hard. If your child sees you trying to manage your technology use, this sets a good example for her too. 

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission

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