Most every parent loves a new school year. Most likely because the beloved milestone offers us a clean slate and a chance to do things better, shape new habits, and close those digital safety gaps.
The hope that fuels change is a powerful thing. However, if you want to ensure your new habits stick, there’s some science you might consider. Psychologists suggest that to make a new change permanent, you should start with smaller, micro-size choices that will lead to sustainable patterns and habits. Micro habits allow you to take safe steps that are too small to fail but effective enough to generate long-term change.
Committing to Micro-Habits
Breaking down the task online safety into bite-sized pieces is a great approach for parents eager to put better habits into play this year. Establishing new ground rules doesn’t have to include restrictions, tantrums, or tears. You can start small, commit to work together, and build your new habits over time.
So often in this blog we offer a combination of practical digital tips proven to work such as robust password protocols, privacy settings, parental controls, smart phone protection, and social network/app safety.
Today, however, we will flip that approach and give you some foundations that will no doubt support and amplify your family’s daily online safety efforts. Ready? Here we go!
5 Foundations of Healthy Family Tech Habits
1. Put connection first.
We’re all connected 24/7 but to what? Equipping kids to make wise decisions online begins with intentional, face-to-face connection at home with a parent or caregiver. When the parent-child relationship is strong, trust grows, and conversation flows. If and when a challenge arises, your child is more likely to turn to you.
Micro-habit: If your family doesn’t eat dinner together, start with one night a week (stay consistent with the day). Make the dinner table a no-phone zone and spend that time together listening and connecting. Build from there.
2. Step into their world.
The new school year is a chance to get more involved with your child’s day-to-day communities (on and offline), including their teachers, friend groups, or hobbies. If you’ve been on the sidelines in the past, taking a few steps into their world can give you an exceptional understanding of their online life. Knowing where they go and who they know online has never been more critical, as outlined in our recent Connected Family Report.
Micro-habit: Does your child have a favorite app? Download it, look around, and understand the culture.
3. Prioritize sleep.
Summer—coupled with extra time online (often unmonitored)—can wreak havoc on a child’s sleep patterns, which, in turn, wreaks havoc on a family. If you have a tween or teen, ensuring they get the required hours of sleep is a significant way to keep them safe online. Think about it. Fatigue can impair judgment, increase anxiety, impact grades, and magnify moodiness, putting a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing at risk online and off.
Micro-habit: Think about setting a phone curfew that everyone agrees on. Giving your child input into the curfew makes it less of a restriction and more of a health or lifestyle shift. Remember, your child’s device is their lifeline to their peers so cutting them off isn’t a long-term solution.
4. Monitor mental health.
With kids spending so much time on apps like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, those platforms inevitably influence your child more than just about anyone. Be on the lookout for behavior changes in your child that may be connected to digital risks such as cyberbullying, sextortion, gaming addiction, inappropriate content, or connecting with strangers.
Micro-habit: Consider setting time limits that allow your child to enjoy their online hangouts without being consumed or overly influenced by the wrong voices. Apply limits in small blocks at first and grow from there.
5. Aim for balance.
Balancing your online life with face-to-face activities and relationships is a must for your child’s physical and emotional wellbeing. But sometimes, striving for that balance can feel overwhelming. Being too stringent can cause big plans to collapse, sending our behaviors in the opposite direction. Balance requires constant re-calibration and pausing to take those small bites.
Micro-habit: Commit to one family outdoor activity together a month. Take a hike, learn to fish, take up tennis. Make the outings phone-free zones. Be consistent with your monthly micro-habit and build from there.
It’s been proven that any change you attempt to make ignites a degree of friction. And prolonged friction can discourage your efforts to stick to new habits. Ignore that noise and keep moving forward. Stay the course parents because this is the year your best intentions take shape.