1. Create a plan
Families should have an open conversation about what's acceptable and what's not. Part of that conversation should involve the creation of a technology plan. This plan should lay out some ground rules for when it's okay to be consumed with your phone and when it's not. What time do you want phones to be put away? What types of apps are acceptable? What happens when someone steps outside the plan? Talk about it.
One note.... it shouldn't exclusively target your kids. What I mean is, if you decide they need to be off their phone by 8:00, you should be off yours too. It's a healthy habit to employ and if it's not modeled, it will be a fight. They'll argue endlessly about why it's okay for you to be on your phone but they can't be on theirs, and they'll probably be right.
2. Digital privacy doesn't really exist, even in your house
Anything your kids post to a website is now readily accessible. In addition, if your kids are spending time on apps that are connected to mass groups of people, they're readily accessible too. So, adopt a family rule that no one locks screens and make a habit of looking through all of your kids social media accounts from their
I've had a number of parents in my office who tell me, "I'm her Facebook friend so I know everything she does". No.......... No you don't. That account that you're friends with? That's her parent-friendly account. It's the one you don't know exists that you need to be concerned with.
And on a side note... kids are fleeing Facebook. Odds are they only maintain that profile and post to it occasionally so that you won't get curious and start asking if they've moved to another site. Because that's exactly what they've done. If you ask a kid today who's on Facebook (and I have) they'll all say the same thing.... moms. Kids don't hang out where their moms hang out.
3. Understand What's Out There
Technology isn't going anywhere and it's going to become more and more intertwined in our daily lives as time goes on. That's a good thing but it means that at this point, parents have a responsibility to understand both the good things that your kids can do with their phones as well as the bad. Parents need to know what apps to look out for but just as importantly, how their devices can be used to bring their families closer together.
4. Find ways to connect to your family through your phones.
Families have a weird habit of connecting to everyone in their lives digitally, except each other. And Facebook doesn't count. Find a protected place where you and your family can communicate, send messages, make jokes, post pictures, and share moments in a private setting. There are tons of apps that will allow you to do this. My family uses Group Me. We know that whatever we post is only being shown to the family members in the group and we use it for personal moments that make us laugh that are frankly no one else's business.
5. Figure out how your phones can make family life easier.
There are a multitude of apps designed to keep family schedules, shopping lists, special events, and notes all in one secure digital location. Most of these apps will also allow you to log in and see where everyone is. Find one that works and use it.
6. Have fun with each other and let technology be a part of it.
Use your phones to laugh and play games with your kids. Sure, things like Words With Friends are nice but that's not really what I mean. When you're using technology for games, the best games are the ones where the technology disappears, like these. Here's a good litmus test.... when the game is over, if you were to tell someone else a story about what you did, would you talk about the technology? If so, you're doing it wrong. You should be talking about the people you played the game with. Games like the ones I've listed will leave you laughing at each other, not at the screen.