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Parenting and Smart Phones VII  

I’ve spent several months looking at the potential impact of smart phones on parenting and I would like to end of the series giving some recommendations for managing smart phones and digital technology in a healthy way. The most important thing is to make sure some time is set aside where it is clear that relationships are most important and won’t be interrupted. This creates the space for better connections to develop between children and parents and models the importance of relationships and actual, face to face communication, to children.

Times to consider making digital free zones are meal times, eating times, and bed times. I would even suggest you consider doing all three. At the very least, it probably makes sense to cut out smart phone and digital use at the dinner table. Long before smart phones existed there was evidence that a regular family dinner proved to be protective of children from a whole realm of social ills. Children whose families regularly have dinner together do better and get into less trouble overall. It seems the interaction is a big part of that, so you might as well keep dinner time as interactive (with each other) as possible. Drive times are a good opportunity for interaction, and if kids aren’t in the mood for interaction, would also be a good opportunity for them to exercise their imagination and daydream. Bed times really should be an opportunity to engage with each other so it makes perfect sense to ditch the technology at that point.

I have known families who were very pleased with a ritual of putting their smart phones and digital devices to bed at a particular time of night, leaving the rest of the night more open for interaction with each other.  I know of others who recommend a “digital sabbath,” one day a week when there is no use of digital technology. These practices would likely be difficult to implement if they are not already in place, but would likely bring a good benefit once they are in place.

Finally, parents will need to manage their own use in order to implement these changes. If they really do need to check email occasionally, or do some digital research, they should create space/time for that as well, and then stick to it. Ultimately, it is important to remember that smart phones are tools. If it looks like they are driving our behavior more than we are using them, our relationship with them is probably problematic.