It’s the season of settling into school, stocking up on supplies and considering which electronic learning tools your children might need—an apt moment for thinking about the role technology plays in our home lives. Is there a balanced and thoughtful way to integrate digital devices into family life? Are there boundaries to create now that will be helpful as children grow older? For these questions, I can’t think of a better guide than Janell Burley Hofmann. Her book iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know is a must-read. In it, Hofmann—who gave an engaging Parenting Lecture at TCS last spring—offers smart, funny and honest advice for navigating the digital age in a conscious way.
It’s helpful to think about your values and comfort level with tech while your kids are young—and before a smartphone is their constant companion. As her point of departure for creating your own iRules, Hofmann describes the traits of “tech-healthy” families:
1. They are guided by a set of values and know what’s important to them.
2. They are digitally literate and understand how the individuals in their family are using tech.
3. They set boundaries for tech use within the family—and enforce them.
4. They are comfortable talking about family issues, and create the time and space to do so.
5. They make mistakes but learn from them, modeling problem solving and flexibility for their children.
6. The adults in the family put away their devices and engage with their family and the world, setting a good example.
7. They see technology in a positive light, as another way to share, to socialize, to have fun, to play and to create.
8. They aren’t afraid of technology, seeing it as a helpful tool, but also one that can be managed.
9. They use tech for the good, to be more effective and efficient in daily life.
10. They lead full, engaged lives away from their screens, finding joy in conversation, friendships, hobbies and nature, without devices.
Digital devices, social media and apps can be wonderful tools for learning and sharing, both at home and at school, but a few clear boundaries will protect the privacy and time needed for family life. Janell Burley Hofmann’s iRules is a great guide to raising children who are as adept and engaged in their relationships and the real world as they are in the digital realm.