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A US teenager spends on an average 9 hours per day consuming entertainment media. We live in a world full of distractions from the pings and dings from all our favorite gadgets. The ability to control your attention and manage your focus is a key skill that we can teach our kids.

Recently, NETGEAR welcomed Nir Eyal – Bestselling Author of “Indistractable”, Speaker and Thought Leader – for a sit-down interview to discuss how, we as parents can build these skills in our kids-to stay focused and engaged to the task at hand and get the best from technology without being distracted by it.

While tools like NETGEAR’s Smart Parental Controls are packed with features for parents to better manage their kids online content access and usage, one might wonder what is the best way to use these tools in an effective manner. In the end we want our children to take responsibility and make them accountable for managing their time in this world of distractions.

Nir clarifies that some of these claims by concerned parents about the negative effects of technology and screen time are bogus, there is a more fundamental need that smartphone apps and video games fulfill for the child to have unstructured playtime. When some of these key needs of kids are not being met they might overdo unhealthy behaviors, such as sending too much time in front of screens.

The key things children need are a sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Most of the smartphone apps and video games are designed by experts to meet these needs. Parents need to provide alternatives for kids to find balance between their online and offline worlds by providing more offline opportunities to find autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Empowering children with the autonomy to control their own time is a tremendous gift, even if they fail from time to time, it is part of the learning process. So the first step in terms of using SmartParental controls is not being heavy handed by imposing your rules & restrictions, but to bring our kids into the conversation to help teach them autonomy. With information such as website history and online usage available through Smart Parental Controls, you have the opportunity to have a conversation and can involve your child by giving them control about how much screen time as well as the type of activities they want to do online. By allowing our kids to impose and abide by their own rules, it teaches responsibility and makes them accountable.

Nir describes these as pacts, which are pre-commitments in place that don’t need us to make a decision in the moment because they’ve been made in the past. Talk to your kids to setup some of their own limits-for ex, number of hours of online gaming per week and then let them use Smart Parental Control features to automatically turning off access to online games after the time-limit is reached.By setting up these pacts in advance and using technology to enforce these limits, it avoids the parent getting involved in the difficult and emotional situation of turning off access to the immersive online game.

As we teach our children to swim before they dive in, we need test their ability to manage distractions that these devices offer. Use the NETGEAR parental control capabilities to monitor online usage, setup agreed about pacts, and provide the information and the guidance as the kids build up the mental attitude to enforce the agreed pacts.

While the idea of being indistractable may be new to many parents, it is very important to model this behavior and to figure it out as a family. According to Nir, a great place to start is that we as parents must be indistractable ourselves. Here are his 4 steps to becoming indistractable:

  • Master Internal Triggers–While the hardest of the 4 steps, it is also the most critical. The reason why we seekdistractionis we’re looking for escape from uncomfortable emotion, like boredom, uncertainty, stress, fatigue, etc.Most distractions start from within and we need to understand that is the internal trigger.
  • Make Time for Traction–Deciding what we want to do with our time will keep us occupied for that specific purpose. Whenever we have “free time”, it shouldn’t come as a urprise that we’ll end up being distracted.We can’t call something a distraction unless we know what it’s distracting us from.
  • Hack Back the External Trigger–External triggers are the pings, dings, and rings –everything in the environment that prompts us to traction (something we want to do) or distraction (something we don’t want to do). Setting norms about when is the appropriate time to use technology is a great start. An example would be having no phone zones at the dining table or no technology use during homework time unless necessary.
  • Prevent Distraction with Pacts–By having pre-commitments, you’ll be kept from feeling distracted by removing a future choice. A decision in the moment doesn’t need to be made because a decision has already been made in the past. The three types of pacts to help keep you indistractable are:

    Effort Pact – Prevents distraction by making unwanted behaviors difficult to do
    Price Pact – Adds a cost to getting distracted
    Identity Pact – Pre-commitment to a self-image

  • Nir is a firm believer that being indistractable will be the skill of the century, not just for kids but adults as well. He leaves us with something to ponder about the future, stating, “If you think the world is distracting now, wait a few years. It will only become increasingly distracting.” By practicing his 4 steps to becoming indistractable, we can not only learn how to become indistractable ourselves, but also how to raise indistractable kids and not let technology get the best out of us.

    For more information about Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, CLICK HERE.

    Watch the full interview here:

    Sandeep Harpalani

    VP, Product Management

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