My previous post (found here) focused on the lack of connection that technology has created in our world, and I urged parents to not allow technology to be the reason for a disconnect in the family. I recognize this is something easier said than done. The world constantly pulls us towards technology use. Technology is attractive, luring, and consuming. Parents who do no want technology to cause a relational disconnect in their families need to strongly consider implementing boundaries and guidelines that foster connection.

So just how can parents go about developing relational connections with their children apart from technology? Conversation leads to connection, so my ideas center around creating the space for healthy conversation surrounding technology use and healthy conversation apart from technology use. Allow me to explain a few of my ideas, and as you read, think about how these things might result in a stronger connection with your child.

First, set an example for your children to follow. Your limitations of personal technology use will model implementation of appropriate boundaries. Instead of stopping a conversation with your child to respond to a text message, give your child your full attention and wait until the conversation is over to respond. When having conversations with your child, silence your phone and put it away so that it is not a distraction. Teach your child that they do not need to have a device in their hand 24/7 by not having a device in your own hand 24/7. Parents who respond the second their phone buzzes teach their children to do the same. If you do not want your child to be using his or her phone all of the time, set the example. Place high priority on healthy conversation habits which include eye-to-eye contact, deep listening, and minimal distraction.

Second, implement technology-free zones and/or times. Create a rule that phones are not allowed in a certain room or place like at the dinner table to remove distractions that might hinder family conversations. Make sure that all phones and devices are kept out of the technology free zone to minimize the temptation for distraction. Instead of a technology-free zone, parents could ick a night of the week where phones are put away for a certain amount of time. I like to call this a technology hiatus. Use the technology hiatus to engage in quality time and conversation. Do something together as a family that fosters connection.

Third, discuss expectations for technology use. Clearly explaining appropriate boundaries for the use of technology makes it easier to enforce expectations. Kids flourish when they understand what is expected of them. Setting boundaries allows for easy implementation of consequences when children choose to not follow the rules. Are video games allowed only on certain days of the week? Is there a curfew of when technology is no longer allowed? Is your child expected to exhibit a certain code of conduct of social media? Share all of these things with your child so that they know what the rules surrounding technology are. Establish clear guidelines that place limits on use and stick to the boundaries.

Doing these three things can dramatically alter the course of your family’s pathway to disconnection. Catherine Steiner-Adair says this in her book The Big Disconnect, “Kids thrive in the context of really good relationships with their parents, and never before has technology challenged that relationship and that direct in-vivo connection as much as it does today.” Technology will only create a relational disconnect in your family if you allow it. The payoff of a good relationship with your child is profound. Are you in?

By: Amanda Paben, LPC