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Empowering Unique Learners
Strategies for establishing healthy technology boundaries
Vicki Thurman | Principal of Miriam High School

As we embrace 2024, many of us are hitting reset with positive resolutions to focus on this year.  For households with teenagers, one area that typically is a consistent area of need is managing their relationship with technology.

In an age where digital devices are an integral part of our lives, we know how essential it is to establish healthy boundaries for a more balanced and mindful approach. If this is an area where you know your student (or other family members) could benefit from positive adaptations this year, the following are strategies you may consider implementing:

Be a Parent Technology Coach, Not the Technology Police

Unless your child needs very strict boundaries or rules, try to position yourself as a tech coach rather than police. With neuro-divergent learners, we know this is often a difficult line to navigate. Guiding our children on responsible and balanced tech usage fosters a healthier relationship with technology (and with you as a parent).

Phone-Free Zones

Designate specific areas in your home – or activities you do as a family – as phone-free zones,  such as at mealtimes or when you visit the community center. Having explicit boundaries at times like this will help foster more meaningful connections during family time together. 

Digital Safety Discussions

Stay engaged in discussions with your children about digital safety and citizenship. As news arises involving real-life examples of moral, ethical, or safety issues involving technology, use them as opportunities to talk about ways to avoid potential digital decision pitfalls or safety concerns.

Family Reflection on Tech Habits

Have your family complete this “Check Your Tech” worksheet, discuss your answers, and use it to develop goals for healthier technology boundaries and mindsets.

Set Digital Boundaries

Establish specific digital boundaries, such as a designated time to turn off and put away phones. Utilize built-in tools like Screen Time on iOS or Digital Wellbeing on Android platforms to help your child monitor actual usage and manage screen time.

Model Healthy Communication Habits

This generation is growing up in an age when phone conversations are happening less and less. Children listen while we are on the phone, so model appropriate phone etiquette and let them hear what a healthy and productive conversation sounds like. In addition, communication through text messages can cause a range of emotions in people, but especially in adolescents. Encourage them to be patient in waiting for responses, avoid emotional conversations through text, and help them to set and clearly express their personal texting boundaries.  

Provide a Judgment Free Space

It is important for adolescents to know that they have someone they can go to when they have made a mistake or have a difficult question to ask or situation to navigate. Try to avoid strong emotional reactions when they come to you with a problem they need help solving; let them know they can trust you and you won’t pass judgment.

In conclusion, guiding teenagers through the intricacies of technology and helping them set boundaries is essential for their well-rounded development in the digital age. Implementing these strategies not only promotes a healthier relationship with technology but also equips teens with the skills and awareness needed to make informed choices.

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