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Gwenn O'Keeffe

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Teach Kids Healthy Social Media Habits by Having Them Yourself

Posted: 08/16/11 04:09 PM ET


Does this Oscar Mayer commercial remind you of your family?

If so, you're very much not alone. I don't think there's a parent among us who hasn't experienced this at least once. If the truth be told, I've lost count how often I've had to resort to some interesting tactics to get my overly plugged in teens' attention, recently and when they were younger. I've texted, IM'd, stood in front of the screen and hit the off switch... but shutting off the house power... brilliant. Honestly. I wish I had thought of that one.

I'll add, though, that I worry less about the kids using technology at the end of the day than I do when I see a family out to dinner, or during an outing, with kids and adults both plugged in and not engaging. How will our kids learn to experience the 'real' world if they are always plugged in??

I was at a local mall not too long ago when I saw an entire family whip out techno-devices during a quick food court lunch. The table had more digital devices on it than food!

When I think of the big picture of our kids digital lives, there are two simple ways to help them learn balance and be OK with living a life more unplugged:

1. Keeping them busy with activities that don't involve plugs.
2. Being a role model for technological balance and appropriate use.

Our kids are savvy enough to see through us if we try to preach one path but follow another. Our kids watch us closely and pick up on everything we do, especially our lapses. So, if we tell them to not text and drive but do it ourselves... we lose credibility and they'll test it out. If we tell them to not be on Facebook so much but are always checking, at home and on our cellphones, they'll follow suit. 


With school around the corner, now is the perfect time to think about the type of digital home you want to have and inch towards a more healthy one. Here's some thoughts to ponder between now and Labor Day to get you on your way: 


1. Unplug and often. Think about where you plug in. Do you really need to be on the phone while at a coffee shop or Target? How about grocery shopping?

2. How often do you check email or obsess over your Facebook, Google+ or other social media accounts? If you can't go a good 4-6 hours with out checking, you may have a problem. We can all get hardwired to think we need to check, but we actually don't. What are you worried you are going to miss and from who?

3.Think about who are friending and why. Are you collecting people just because or do the folks on your various SM lists have meaning and provide value to you personally or professionally?

4.Post smartly and judiciously. If you are a poster but never respond to anyone, why is that?

5. Good connections have boundaries. Be careful how you post, who you post to and make sure your privacy settings are what you want them to be.

6. Have home family use rules that make sense and everyone needs to follow. Here's my family media use plan that you can use or modify for your family.

Over the coming weeks I'll tease through these issues in more detail. This is one area in our lives we can have our cake and eat it, too, if we're willing to make the necessary changes ourselves. It's all in balance and moderation... and remembering that what our kids see us do today are what they'll try out tomorrow.

 

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