Do you remember the age-old game of Follow the Leader? It’s pretty simple: someone chooses a leader, and everyone in the group has to do/go wherever the leader wants to do/go. I remember this game being a lot of fun…if you were the leader!
But let’s be honest: this game is a lot like real life for every parent. You, as the designated leader of your home, call the shots, make the rules, set the standards and all your kids are expected to follow suit. But here’s the tricky part: your kids are still “playing the game” even when you’re not “leading” them at the moment. In other words, your kids are watching what you do/don’t do all the time (even if they don’t show it), and they are following suit.
Why is this? It’s because you are the most influential person in your kid’s life, good and bad. They are learning so much from you: habits, how to manage conflict, how to use free time, communication skills, priorities, etc. In other words, you’re a role model to your kids, 24/7.
What are you Modeling?
So here’s the question: when it comes to your smartphone/technology usage, what are you currently modeling to your kids? Maybe to better answer this question, it’ll be good to be honest with yourself in regards to the following:
- How often are you on your phone? For the average person, “We Touch, Tap, & Swipe Our Phones 2,617 Times Per Day.” (Eocinstitute.org) Whatever it is you spend a lot of your time doing, that thing/person will be seen as a priority in your life. If I were to poll your kid on how often you are on your phone, how would they respond?
- When and where do you use your phone? Is there any designated time/place for no phone usage? Are you on your phone in the: bathroom, bedroom, dinner table, or transitional times (in the car, on your way to/from something, when you have downtime or are waiting for something, etc.)? Are you on it right when you wake up/go to bed?
- How do you use your phone/social media? Mostly for work, entertainment, information, communication, to pass the time, etc.?
Become a Better Digital Role Model
The truth is, every parent is different, and so is every kid. But what’s true of every kid is that their parent has a significant impact on their life, even in the smallest details for years to come. With that said, in regards to your phone and social media usage, here are five quick tips to help you become a better digital role model:
- Set no tech zones/time limits: come up with 3-5 areas/times and challenge your family to follow along (bedroom, during school/homework, dinner table, car rides, family outings, etc.). Maybe decrease your current phone usage by 30 minutes/1 hour per day.
- Be fully present: phones can distract and pull us away from being present, and sometimes taking pictures or looking up an answer to a question can wait.
- Show etiquette: look in the eyes of the person your talking to, put down the phone when your kid is talking to you, finish the conversation before you check the notification.
- Purposeful vs. Passing Time: still have fun, but be more mindful of why/when/how you use your phone, post positive things.
- Periodic Detoxing: maybe have a full day (or even a half day) of no screens, only use your phone for texting/calling for a few days, no YouTube for a whole week, etc.
The Bottom Line
Whatever you want to see happen in your kid’s smartphone/social media usage, you need to model it first. They take their cues from you! This doesn’t mean you won’t struggle or fail or have bad days, but when you do, the way you bounce back speaks volumes to your kid in how to deal with struggles/failure.
EVERYTHING you do matters…EVERYTHING you don’t do matters. Deep down, what you’re modeling to your kids is how to deal with time management, priorities in life, respect for others, focus on the why behind the what, etc. So today, why not take one towards becoming a healthier user of your smartphone, then in time, watch your kid follow along!
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