How to take back parenting by saying NO!

 Technology as a bargaining chip

Recently, I read an Op-Ed about using technology as a bargaining chip with your child.  For instance, confiscating a phone from your teenager for late curfew, bad grades, or catching them doing something they weren’t supposed to do. 

Similarly, the article states it shouldn’t be used as a positive reinforcement tool either.  This piece of journalism references when a two year old child is successful in potty training, the reward should not involve screen time.

Interestingly, the read suggested that parents are giving children the wrong message about tech use.  Rather altruistic, it stated we need to be showing our children how to positively engage with tablets and cell phones. 

 I understand what this opinion piece is telling the reader. However, while I agree with some of it, I strongly disagree with much of it.

Remember, I am a parent who allows their children zero screen time in the home. I didn’t decide to use technology as a bargaining chip with my child. I took it away completely in one fell swoop.  No more devices.  I had to.

Holes in certain theories

The notion that if I don’t allow my kids screen time now, they will rebel, revolt and go hog wild with a device. It’s simply bogus to suggest that theory.

For example, should I liken it to the college student who turns into a wild drinker because mom and dad forbid a taste of beer in high school?  What exactly  are my children going to do as a result of technology restrictions?  Will he or she turn into a social media fanatic? Could my son become addicted to porn?  Is it possible my daughter will be cyberbullying at age 25?

I’m sorry. Last I checked, there are children that DO use technology and experience the downside. Some, are not and manage screen time well.

Additionally, adults who didn’t grow up with tech have definitely fallen prey to cyber relationships, pornography addiction, and social media saturated lives. Pathetically, posting picture after picture of their perfect children and marriage.

Often, I see technology used as a bargaining chip with 10 year olds to 17 year olds.  Sometimes, even sooner than age 10. It’s the first thing be taken away when a child misbehaves, shows up late for curfew, or scores poorly on a test.

It seems to be the only thing now days that can be used as punishment.  Essentially, it’s the ultimate consequence when a child is not meeting adult expectations.  

Excuses and cop outs

The next statement is the one that’s going to gain me the most backlash. It’s ok. I’m up for the unsubstantiated criticism. Although, I have always been forthcoming and honest about our family’s cyber shortcomings.  

Internally, I come unglued when I hear parents of teenagers say to me, “Once you give it to them, it’s impossible to take it away.”

Really? The myriad of responses to asking WHY are confounding. 

For instance, “It’s easy for you because you have little children. Wait until your children’s entire social network revolves around that device. I’m afraid my child will miss out or be left out and I don’t want to see their feelings hurt.  I like to track my child to see where they are because I don’t trust them.”

I’m going to address each of these individually.

Painful addiction to a device

There is NOTHING any easier about taking technology away from a 7 year old vs. a 17 year old. 

What I witnessed with my son was a vile, toxic, and painful addiction to a device.  The withdrawal we endured for days was trying, to say the least.  I had to exercise incredible resilience. The challenge to dig deep and stay strong took everything within me. 

The only difference between the teenage parent and me is once I saw the hold it had on my child, I said NO MORE.  As long as I am the parent, in my house,  with my rules, it is my duty to say NO MORE.  Especially, when I see danger ensuing.  

Sadly, parents of 17 year old’s, you DO see the danger ensuing.  It’s a different danger at this point, but you see it. 

Next, I’d like to address the second and third excuses I frequently hear.

The dangers posed by exposure 

Parents see the lack of good communication skills, or the absence of them as they text, Snapchat and “Insta.”

Obviously, you’ve witnessed the hurt they feel when they find out, through social media, that they weren’t included.  You’ve been told about the horrific statements other children are making about your child as you console their uncontrollable sobs.  Worse, you find out your child is making horrific statements on social media. 

You know your child has internet searched something that has, quite frankly, given them a manual beyond anything they are ready for. A far cry, from when our generation looked up “&itch” in the Webster dictionary, only to discover :a female dog. 

Yet, everyone else has the phones and my kid must have it, too.  We’re teaching our children that we must roll along with cultural norms so we don’t get left behind. 

Rather, teach your children to be different. Tell them to go against the grain. Urge them to question go with the flow. Give them the confidence to be leaders, do things differently, and watch everyone follow YOUR trend.  The FOMO world we are living in is beyond comprehension to me.

The tracking.  I get it.

Today’s times are different in many ways.  Sadly, we’ve never seen such school violence, global terrorism, and teen suicide. However, are times really that different? 

Didn’t the generations that precede us test the limits?  Surely, the Baby Boomers tried alcohol in high school?  Many experimented with marijuana in the 70’s? I’m sure my parents tested the boundaries by coming home after curfew? Who remembers doing donuts with a car full of friends in a parking lot on a snowy night? 

You darn right they tested and challenged the rules.  The tracking is an interesting concept to me.  It makes sense right?

But why?

If you can SEE your child on a GPS family sharing app, in an area they shouldn’t be in, or catch them in a lie, I suppose you can jump in your car and get to their location to do what exactly? 

Save them from being car jacked?  Humiliate them when you arrive in front of their friends? Is it simply for peace of mind knowing where your children are at all times? 

Are we trying to keep them on the straight and narrow because they know they are being watched? Therefore, they won’t attempt things we would disapprove of? 

Is it to find missing children because they have a phone on them and law enforcement can locate them with GPS? Which, by the way, old school flip phones can do that.

We’ve decided that the technology can replace the open lines of communication with our children. The technology can ensure that if I fall short in my parenting, and my child feesl the need to go against my rules, no problem. I’ll just monitor the hell out of you and not worry about the real issue which is, we haven’t established good family trust.

Use tech as a tool

Now, what about the kids that have the phones? The children that respect parent wishes, follow the rules, and stay out of trouble? The kids who are where they are supposed to be. The ones who use it as the tool it was designed to be used as? Teens who are completely immune to any hurt attached to social media?

The stand outs that are the best oral communicators, have never been exposed to inappropriate content on the internet, and engage with peers and adults? The children who have terrific eye contact, and always respond when they are in their screen? 

The ones that don’t require you to repeat yourself. The best self-regulators who unplug without any prompting, never throw a fit when you say “time’s up,” and put it in the glove box while driving. And lastly, the perfect creatures that never need technology used as a bargaining chip. 

I say to you, parents, CONGRATULATIONS!  You’ve either done something really right, or you got darn lucky. Because, your child is a rare statistic today.

#keeptalking

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