Children learn by watching, and more than anyone, they learn by watching their parents.  We’ve all seen a small child try on their parent’s shoes, copy something they say, or behave like their parents. Kids are looking to their parents for cues on how to act, speak, and interact in social situations. So why then are we perplexed when kids and teens are glued to their phones?

Aren’t you “just checking Facebook” too?

Or just making a quick call?

When we are with our children, we are showing them what is appropriate. When we choose our devices over our children, we are effectively telling them that they too can choose their devices over others. In a study done in a Boston restaurant, 40 out of 55 caregivers interacted primarily with their device. This is distraction at its most subtle.

When we choose our devices over our children, we are effectively telling them that they too can choose their devices over others.

Don’t misunderstand, parenting is VERY hard. Those few seconds we get to ourselves, are precious and necessary. However, the problem is how we interact with our children when we are actually with them. One of our jobs as parents is to show what a healthy relationship with technology looks like. We should face it, technology is here to stay, and so let’s do our best to keep it in its rightful place.

Here are some ways you can teach your kids to form relationships with people — rather than technology.

1: Be WITH them.

Don’t just be around them. Put your smartphone away and out of sight, and show your child that they are a priority.

2: Talk to them.

Dialogue with your child about when you are going to use electronics. For example, you could say something like “In a bit, I have to make some phone calls, but right now I want to spend time with you. Can you tell me about how your day went?” Start a conversation with them — this lets them know that there is both a time and a place for electronic use, but that people always come first.

Additionally, practice the art of conversation. Ask them open-ended questions, and listen to their answers thoughtfully and completely.

3: Make boundaries.

And make them apply to you too! Whatever rules you set (i.e. no phones at the table) apply them to everyone, not just your kids.

4: When you do converse over the phone, expect answers.

When you call your kids on the phone and they don’t answer, expect them to call back. Texting is easier and “safer” (for them), but it’s the easy way out. Phone calls create more of a connection. It will also get them comfortable with talking to a person on the phone (which will help them make their own dentist appointments later in life).

5: Value privacy.

Teach your kids what they should and shouldn’t post on the internet by monitoring what you post. You should also let them know that you value their privacy by not posting intimate things about them. “My kid is finally potty-trained!” or “Look at my kid in a silly costume” are not things that are necessary for your entire roster of Facebook friends to know. Be respectful and use discretion at all times.

Every parent wants their kids to grow up strong, independent and confident. However, we devalue our children when we bury our heads in our own digital world. Our kids aren’t kids forever, so take the time to be present now — or regret it later.