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How to Raise Low-Tech Kids in a High-Tech World | 8 Hacks That Actually Work

Why I’m Advocating For Low-Tech Kids

Fun/sad fact…once in a while, my 3-year-old pretends a raisin box is a smartphone. She swipes left and right and holds it up to show me funny “pictures,” then loses interest after a minute or two. And while I feel bad for a second, I know a real smartphone wouldn’t be abandoned so quickly. Those suckers are addictive! So I remind myself of my mission to raise low-tech kids in a high-tech world and let go of the guilt.

There are loads of reasons to raise low-tech kids. Studies are finding that social media alone can cause depression, anxiety, fewer real-life human connections, shorter attention spans, and more.

But my biggest reason for advocating for low-tech kids is that I want to raise a child whose eyes are up and open to the world around them. I want my daughter to know the depth and warmth of in-person relationships, to feel comfortable in silence and boredom without immediately filling it, and to experience life and love first-hand, without the pressure to choose the perfect filter in which to document it all.

Whatever your reason for wanting to raise low-tech kids, here’s what’s working for us:

Raise Low-Tech Kids By Monitoring and Limiting Screen Time

  • Don’t turn on the tv or hand out devices just because…wait until they’re specifically requested. I used to do this…just turn on Sesame Street first thing every morning. It’s her routine, I’d tell myself, if I don’t turn it on, she’ll ask for it anyway. Except when I tested that theory, I was wrong. Sure, some mornings she’d walk straight to the tv. But other days, she’d wake up on a mission to make or build something or to ride her bike, and she’d play until lunchtime without even one mention of the tv. I used to start every long road trip with a movie on the Kindle. Now I pack the Kindle, but only turn it on if she asks for it. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she dances to the radio and talks with my husband and I the entire way.
  • Use screens, but set length and time of day limits. It’s going to be tough to ban screens completely, so consider setting reasonable limits. For example, let them know they can watch two episodes of their favorite show, but will have to find something else to do after that. They can watch Frozen once a day, but then will need to let it go. (See what I did there?) Setting an objective quantity takes opinions and feelings and all other subjectivity out of the equation. You might also consider limiting when they can access screens, like no tv during meal times, or no phones after 7:00. Another alternative is to let the battery decide when they’re done. If my phone is dying by 5:00, I take it as a sign I’ve spent too much time on it that day, and plug it in to charge for the rest of the evening.
  • Don’t rush out to replace batteries. This might sound terrible, but I often delay digging for batteries in the hopes my daughter will move on to something else in the meantime. And it almost always works! I don’t even delay for days. I simply say, “I can help with that, but I don’t see any batteries at the moment! I’ll do a little hunting later tonight!” Or if we truly don’t have any on-hand, “I’ll add them to my list for the next time I go to the store.” She understands I’m on her side and seems satisfied enough that help is on the way, just not here yet.

Raise Low-Tech Kids By Offering Loads of Non-Tech Entertainment

  • Offer lots of non-tech entertainment options. If their phone or tablet is the only interesting “toy” in the house, we can hardly blame them for using it. You don’t have to go on an expensive shopping spree either! I love to peruse clearance toys at Walmart, Deals of the Day on Amazon, and garage sales! Offer a variety of options. I quickly learned my daughter didn’t like dolls or princesses, so I offered other things…craft supplies, dress up props, pretend food and dishes, and all things dinosaurs. Keep offering until you find something that sparks their interest! (If you have a preschooler like me, be sure to check out my Amazon list of Low-Tech Preschool Gift Ideas!)
  • Offer non-tech and low-tech options with a positive attitude. Our kids aren’t stupid. They can tell if we’re offering them something we don’t think they’ll like. And if we’re not sold on it, they won’t be sold either. Offer every option with genuine interest and excitement (or the best you can muster), assuming they’ll sincerely enjoy it. Don’t allow your attitude toward something to influence their response.
  • Offer plenty of opportunities to disengage from technology and, whenever possible, go outside. Make a few purchases for the backyard, like soccer balls and goal or a yard game. Let them run at a park, walk the dog, or splash around a cheap pool. I can’t think of a single time my daughter has ever left our backyard to come inside and watch tv. She’s not even thinking about it if/when it’s not in front of her face.

Raise Low-Tech Kids By Getting Social

  • Invite their friends over. Maybe don’t invite the friend that will play video games in silence for hours, at least not for these purposes. But if your kids have a friend that will get them talking, engaging in non-tech activities, and even better, breathing fresh air for a while, invite that kid over! Just like us, our kids are often driven to technology to overcome loneliness or boredom. So take those two emotions out of the equation for a few hours.
  • Make it a family affair! What’s more alluring…to be forced outside to entertain yourself or to go outside to challenge dad to a basketball game? Consider creating a post-dinner family ritual, like taking a walk around the neighborhood, wrestling WWE-style in the living room, or competing in a family-friendly game like Apples to Apples or Exploding Kittens. Think about buying a cheap bike of your own to join your kids in a ride around the neighborhood…let them choose the route to increase the fun factor. By adding yourself to the mix, you’re adding to the allure of non-tech fun and opening the door to some bonding and heart-to-heart conversations.

Wrap It Up

Your low-tech kids are already in the making! By monitoring and limiting screen time, offering lots of non-tech entertainment options, and participating in those options yourself, you can guide your family into a low-tech lifestyle!

What tips have you found helpful in raising low-tech kids? Be sure to share in the comments!

P.S. Did you miss the link to my Amazon list of low-tech preschool gift ideas? Check it out here!

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