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Remember the “Blockbuster Bowl” on New Year’s Day; video rental stores? Where did they go? An entire industry came and went in only a blink of an eye–a few years, really. As a still new grandpa I marvel AND fear the rapid evolution of technology and its effects on youth. This is probably most evident in the proliferation of smart cellphones over the last years. This was mere science fantasy for my generation as teens, and was mostly in its infancy as my children went through high school. But its a major part of young families’ worlds now.

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  1. BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL! Get off the phone yourself.
  2. Set time and place limits for appropriate cell phone use, and stick by them yourself. No cellphone use AT ALL during homework, family meals. I think 1 hour/school day and 2 for weekends/vacation days is reasonable.
  3. No phone overnight in child’s room. This is key. I cannot tell you how many kids I see complaining of fatigue, headaches, difficulty in school where I find that the likely root cause is poor sleep, as they are up till whenever on line or communicating still with friends (about the usual teen high school social issues and nothing more). No–not mono, ADHD, or any of those things(at least often not). It’s the darn phone!
  4. Other activities. Read books – take your family to a bookstore or library, especially now that summer is here. Read books yourself. Play sports together – tennis, have a catch, ride a bike, take a walk. No phones during these activities.
  5. Educate your child about the public nature of online communication. These devices are NOT private but rather are a combination of billboard and megaphone, I tell young people. Before posting/sending ANY information–verbal or pictorial–ask yourself this question, I say: do you want everyone, including grandma and/or your worst enemy, to see this? Because they will. REMEMBER THAT.
  6. There are good apps out there to help manage your child’s phone use: OurPact, KidsLox and Google Family Link; cost: approximately $50/year. These apps enable you to shut the phone off at a scheduled time, limit the use (internet and text) and can enable you to keep tabs on sites visited. These apps even allow you to add time if YOU feel it’s necessary.
  7. Know your limitations. Again, now into my 7th decade, much of this tech stuff is quite foreign to me. You younger parents mostly grew up in a computer/tech world. But unless you actually do tech for a living, you likely know less here than your kid. So be humble. There are few filters or monitors you can apply that your child cannot at least partially work around. So avoid over-confidence and remain vigilant.

Let’s face it – these tech options aren’t going anywhere, and given the many benefits they bring to society, nobody says they should. But be aware of their disadvantages as well as their advantages.

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