Smart and Strategic Tech Time Can Be Play Time For Parents and Kids

If you’re like most parents, you both love and hate your kids’ use of tech. It’s helpful. It’s educational. It’s amazing. It’s hard to turn off. Often when the kids are on a device is when adults enjoy much needed quiet time, but could we be doing it smarter?

According to the American Psychological Association, “Research has found that relationships between parents and caregivers and youth that: are warm, open, and communicative; include appropriate limits and provide reasoning for rules for behavior

are associated with higher self-esteem, better performance in school, and fewer negative outcomes such as depression or drug use in children and teenagers.”

Kids who can rely on relationships like these are more likely to be independent and interact with their environment and tend to enjoy smoother social, emotional, and cognitive development. This begs the question when we are constantly so busy, and family relaxation time is often spent on devices, are we connecting enough?

It’s a touchy issue. With so much to do all the time, and so much of it is already for the kids, who wants to encroach on the precious few moments of me-time they get in a busy day? And, what parent wants to admit they’re not connecting enough with their child? And, do you even have any extra time to play together?

One solution is to make tech time connect time. Get strategic. How about making some of that tech time your child enjoys a time when the two of you can actually play together?

If you Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em

The term “joining” in psychology refers to a stance of solidarity – being on the other person’s side in a way that they can really feel – one where your interest in the things they love is actually palpable. And, that’s the stance described by the APA above. Child experts agree that time spent joining your child each day is enough for them to benefit immensely in the long run.

Just like they can feel it when we’re joining them in our play, they can feel it when we don’t want to. When a parent rolls their eyes about a child’s love of video games, it can feel to the child like an eye roll about him. Technology can bring families together, and showing an interest in it can be one more way for parents to communicate care to kids. If your child’s yearning for tech time and you’re wishing for her to be more engaged, not just plugged into a screen, why not connect through tech? Plugging in together will help remove some of that internal struggle.

Your presence is what counts, not your ability to teach something or your child’s ability to perform. No need to direct the show, just follow your child’s lead and let them show you their world through their eyes.

Make Tech Time Connect Time

Doing it this way is great for families on a few different levels. On the one hand, quality fun time together is really important, and it’s often the first thing we skip when we’re busy. Family life is better when we can slow down a bit and enjoy it. Also, connecting through tech is efficient (and everybody likes that). But, also, your willingness to delve into the stuff that parents often groan about is meaningful to your child. Tech is important to them, and they want to feel your enthusiasm about it alongside theirs. When you spend time with your child around technology, you get to help them make sense of their tech life and guide not only the way they use it but the way they’ll continue to use it in the future.


So dig deep into the world of Minecraft. Google search until your child’s curiosity is satisfied. Jump up and get down with GarageBand. You’ll be glad you did.

Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over 10 years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples, and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland.

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