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Fostering healthy digital habits over the holiday season

December 22, 2022

With the holiday season fast approaching, many children have begun compiling their wishlists with excited anticipation. For digital natives, tech-based gifts such as smart speakers, phones and watches, or consoles, apps, and games often rank high on the list. 

At this time of year, schools and workplaces usually start to wind down, and in the spirit of the festive season, parents are generally more inclined to ease up on family rules, particularly those regarding tech use. However, in the interest of maintaining healthy digital habits both during and after the holidays are over, it’s important not to abandon these rules entirely! To help, here are our top tips for maintaining balance during the festive season.

Audit tech agreements

If you’re considering purchasing your child a tech-based gift for the festive season and you don’t already have a family tech agreement in place, setting one up is an essential first step before allowing your child to use technology. Ensure your agreement is created as a family, with input from your children to help them take ownership of creating their own good digital habits. This is especially important for parents of tweens and teens!

For those who already have an agreement in place, the start of the holidays can be an excellent time to perform an audit to see what’s working well and what could be improved. Your agreement will likely need to change as your children mature, so this would also be an appropriate time to update it accordingly.

You may even consider creating a separate tech agreement with relaxed rules that apply only during the holidays. To make things more fun, include family challenges such as ‘whoever touches their phone during dinner has to clear the table’, or ‘the person who suggests the best movie gets extra ice cream’.

Regardless of what you decide, it’s important for all family members to respect the family tech agreement rules, including parents – so, remember to model good tech habits yourself!

Tech Timeout

The holiday season brings more relaxed rule-free downtime; however, it’s still important to find a balance and, where possible, carve out blocks of time daily where you and your family can enjoy some tech-free (or at least tech-minimal) activities.

Our brains experience an energy peak in the morning, making this a fantastic time to set tech aside and, instead, harness our brain power to read, listen to music, learn a new skill, exercise, complete house chores, take pets out for a walk, or unleash our inner creativity through drawing or writing. Encourage your child by setting a positive example yourself.

If your children are reluctant to turn away from tech during the holidays (highly likely!), try connecting on and offline activities. Encourage them to use the Internet to find fabulous decorating ideas they can recreate at home, or discover a baking channel with festive recipes they can try. Alternatively, allow them to utilize a music streaming service to create a holiday playlist for the family to enjoy, pick out audiobooks they can listen to either alone or with other family members, or download a fitness or wellbeing app to get the whole family moving and working on their wellness goals.

Read the fine print

If your child receives a new online game or app over the holidays, reading the often long and tedious terms and conditions set out in the privacy policy and community guidelines is probably the last thing you will feel like doing, especially when caught up in the excitement and festivities of the season. Like most parents, you will undoubtedly have every intention of going back and reading the fine print later on once things are back to normal, but in reality, most forget.

Data privacy and the protection of minors are just as important as healthy tech habits; therefore, to help keep your children safe, it’s imperative you read and understand these conditions as thoroughly as possible (no matter how boring they seem). Knowledge is power, and the information contained in privacy policies and community guidelines will outline the kind of data that the app or game collects from your child, how it will be stored and used, and if it will be shared with any third parties, enabling you to make an informed decision about how (and if) you will allow your child to use the app or game.

Access, not ownership

If you have a younger child and are planning on gifting them a new smartphone or tablet during the festive season, we recommend that you start their first online device experience with access rather than full ownership. It's best to ease them into the responsibility of owning and operating a sophisticated piece of technology by teaching them to become a responsible digital citizen who knows how to navigate online risks appropriately. Your child should only be given full ownership of their smartphone or tablet once they can demonstrate some fundamental responsible online behaviors, such as proving they can keep themselves (and others) safe online, showing they know how to respectfully communicate with others, and demonstrating they can set healthy screen time boundaries.

Consume content together

Many children complain that their parents don’t understand the platforms and games they like to use, which is often true! However, the holiday season can provide the perfect opportunity to bond as a family by consuming and learning about digital content together.

Set aside regular times during the holidays for your child to teach you about their favorite apps or show you how to play their favorite online games. Doing so will help you better understand the platforms they are using and open you to opportunities for casual conversations about your child’s online experiences.
Alternatively, team up as a family to play an online game together or use your streaming service to create a movie watch list you can all enjoy as a family.

Tech Timeout

The holiday season brings more relaxed rule-free downtime; however, it’s still important to find a balance and, where possible, carve out blocks of time daily where you and your family can enjoy some tech-free (or at least tech-minimal) activities.

Our brains experience an energy peak in the morning, making this a fantastic time to set tech aside and, instead, harness our brain power to read, listen to music, learn a new skill, exercise, complete house chores, take pets out for a walk, or unleash our inner creativity through drawing or writing. Encourage your child by setting a positive example yourself.

If your children are reluctant to turn away from tech during the holidays (highly likely!), try connecting on and offline activities. Encourage them to use the Internet to find fabulous decorating ideas they can recreate at home, or discover a baking channel with festive recipes they can try. Alternatively, allow them to utilize a music streaming service to create a holiday playlist for the family to enjoy, pick out audiobooks they can listen to either alone or with other family members, or download a fitness or wellbeing app to get the whole family moving and working on their wellness goals.


Topics: Digital Parenting, Digital Citizenship, Digital Wellness

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