Taming Technology: Make A Media Plan for Your Family

Think of how you feel after a day spent at your computer at work. Your head might hurt, and you may feel tired, sluggish, or sometimes grumpy. These are all symptoms of stress that can be caused by tech overload. Now think of the effect too much technology might have on your kids.

Unlike adults, kids don’t recognize when they’re feeling stressed — and typically don’t know how to seek out coping strategies. Instead, they’re more likely to become irritable.

In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) issued updated guidelines on managing media for children. According to the APP, tech overuse by children can cause sleep disturbances, poor school performance, and behavioral problems.

As technology becomes more widely available to children and families, the effects of tech stress are likely to increase. A 2013 study by Common Sense Media found that from 2011 to 2013, the number of children who had access to a tablet or mobile phone jumped from 52 percent to 75 percent. During this same period, the amount of time children spent on devices daily tripled.

If your family seems stressed out and run down, the culprit may be that you’re constantly wired. What can you do? It may seem like technology is everywhere — and impossible to escape — but there are simple steps you can take to reduce the stress your family feels from technology overuse. For starters, try developing a “family media management plan.” Here’s what to include:

Offer alternatives to technology
Video games and, web surfing, are hard to compete with, so it may not be enough to set time limits. Offer interesting, fun replacements, such as heading to the park, reading a good book together, playing a board game, or making a batch of cookies.

Set some boundaries
You work hard to make a nice dinner, only to find your pre-teen spending the entire meal texting a friend. Yikes! The APP recommends making the dinner table a no-tech zone — parents included — to bring back the family meal.

Get moving
Exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate stress symptoms caused by tech overload. Insist on playtime after school. Even a quick game of catch or hide-and-seek can do a lot to help your family unwind.

Set aside one evening as family time
Plan a favorite activity together or designate a night as board game night — no technology allowed. Take turns letting family members pick the game, and serve something special to eat and drink as you play, such as hot chocolate, popcorn, or a yummy dessert like our hot apple sauce sundaes.

Technology’s not going away, and with its many positive benefits, we wouldn’t really want it to. The secret is to manage it and keep tech-stress at bay with a balanced approach.