In my work with thousands of families, we talk about digital health and wellness, balance and boundaries in raising the digital generation. The most popular questions asked are often about screen time, content and family dynamics. Essentially, parents want to allow their children to use technology, but they want to eliminate struggle and encourage smart user choices. This can be a process -- it takes attention and effort -- but it is possible. Our families can have a positive relationship to technology without allowing it to take over. Below are the consistent qualities and philosophies reflected in the tech-healthy families I work with and advise.
1. The families are guided by a set of values or principles. They know what's important to them away from the screens, and it's reflected in their everyday lifestyle. Naturally, this influences their digital lives.
2. The families are digitally literate. This doesn't necessarily mean they know how to code or that they work in the tech industry. It means they have a general level of fluency in the ways their specific family is using the tech.
3. The families set iRules and enforce them. They have outlined expectations and set boundaries that work best to support the tendencies of the individual child and family as a whole.
4. The families communicate. They are comfortable talking to each other -- not just about the technology, but all topics. They make time and space to interact and share ideas, thoughts and concerns.
5. The families make mistakes and learn from them. They don't strive for perfection, and they integrate flexibility into their daily lives. Even though there may be consequences for certain choices and behaviors, these families teach accountability and resilience.
6. The adults in the family have good digital habits. Parents make it a priority to put away their devices at certain times of the day and engage with the people and world around them. They know that, personally and professionally, space from the tech is important -- and also that this is a great example for their children.
7. The families have fun with their technology. They make the most of it and don't use it only in isolation. They socialize, enhance their interests and feed their curiosity. They also play and create, experiment with new tech and share it with one another.
8. The families aren't afraid of technology. They see technology as a tool. Because these families have a healthy approach to interacting with technology, it is not something to be feared. They respect it and know it has a valuable place in the world, but also know that it can be managed.
9. The families use technology for good. They commit to a tech-positive life by using technology for its highest purpose. They connect with friends and family, share thoughts, ideas and causes that are important to them, get information, support (and deepen) learning and a healthier lifestyle. They also use tech to be more effective and efficient both at home and at work.
10. The families live fully away from their screens. They do not feel ruled by their devices and do not allow their children and teens to be ruled by them, either. They are active and curious about the world around them, and get joy out of spending time device-free in conversation, in nature, while doing tasks or while enjoying a meal. The technology is a part of their lives, but not central to it.