While the start of a new school year can be exciting (for parents, especially), it’s also time to get back to the grind. Back to normal bedtimes and routines, homework and activities, the early morning rush and school supply shopping. In order for all of this to work better, this also means ditching some of the bad summer habits we’ve fallen into, like too many trips to the ice cream place, late bed times, and amplified screen time. Like most households, with more free time these things tend to slip out of our grip at the end of the school year, and can be challenging to pull back in for a productive, well-rested start to the school year. When it comes to screen time, this can be especially difficult as our kids are often swapping their iPods/gaming consoles with school-issued devices with many of the same capabilities. So, how do we get back into a well-balanced grove with technology? Here are some things to consider.

I think we can all agree (adults most definitely included) that we can be better about how much time we’re spending in front of our devices. The old adage “monkey see, monkey do” could not be more fitting in these situations, as our kids see us on our devices non-stop, while we’re yelling at them to get off of theirs. While there may be more merit to us being on our devices (work, life-management), I still don’t know a single person that wouldn’t tell me they could do a better job of balancing how much time they’re on – and off – their devices. That being said, here are some tips to get your entire family back on a balanced tech track for this school year:

1. Make mandatory OFF times for your household. These are times of the day, places in your house that the phones are entirely away – even off if you can manage it. Maybe this starts at the table, or after 9PM – whatever works for you and your household. But these are designated times and places where your family is intentionally disconnecting from devices and reconnecting to one another. Even if it’s for 15 minutes a day – it’s a start.

2. Make sure you know your child’s school’s tech policy, and read it closely. I can tell you, having been in schools across this country, schools are in the same boat we parents are in – trying to figure out how to balance this stuff in the right way. With that, there are a lot of kinks and unknowns, so don’t feel like you can’t explore and help them do it better. I know many schools have implemented tech-free days, or tech-free classrooms where they’re using manipulatives or other items that help kids explore and learn without being plopped in front of a screen. 

3. Enable screen time functionality for you and your family, and set it up as a contest. Whoever has the least amount of screen time, or most productivity (it measures this as well!), then they win something for the week, get to pick a Friday night movie, or $5. That’s right, bribery – a wonderful parenting too. This makes the thoughtfulness process around using tech more fun – in our family, nobody will say no to a competition. 

Technology is awesome and is changing all of our lives – how we learn, interact, work, and function. However, we all could benefit from a little technology makeover, and the beginning of the school year is a great time to pump the breaks and reset. Technology should be a tool that we use, not something that overtakes and uses us. So, rethinking how, when and why we use our devices could help us all to reconnect, be more productive, and use technology in a more mindful way. 

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