How to win the Battle
between Parents, Kids, and Tech
Here’s 5 strategies to help you raise kids in a digital world.
When I was middle school and high school aged, we had several phones in the home. The most frequently used one was in the kitchen, mounted to the wall with a long cord. From time to time, you would have to unplug the cord and straighten it out from the coiling and twining as a result of using it so frequently.
Mom would do dishes, cook, and tidy up, while talking on the phone with that long cord stretching in every direction of the room. Eventually, we enjoyed the luxuries of the cordless phone, answering machine, call waiting, and good old *69 to find out who prank called you.
The rules were, no one phoned during the dinner hour, which usually consisted of somewhere between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm. If that happened, it was my job to say, we were in the middle of dinner and I would have to call them back later.
Once dinner ended, it was game on. I would get on that phone and talk for hours. Or, I’d at least try to talk for hours. Often, the groans of my parents telling me to get off the phone, I’ve talked long enough, it’s time to wrap it up, interrupted my grandiose plan to tie up the line much of the evening.
In today’s world, smartphones, computers, tablets, social media, apps, children are given an all access pass to constant contact and it doesn’t inconvenience anyone else in the surrounding environment. Kids are occupied texting, Tweeting, Snapchatting, YouTubing, TikToking, with friends, enemies, and strangers they’ve never even met.
If we really want to be honest with ourselves, we have no idea what they are doing. We are not monitoring their every move and how they engage with all of this technology. So much so, that we pay for subscriptions such as Bark and Circle to ensure our kids stay out of harm’s way. We rely on technology to do our job, which is to keep the dangers of technology at bay.
Many will argue that cellphones have given us a sense of relief because we can reach our children whenever we need to and vice versa. While this is true, a Smartphone doesn’t have to be the solution. A simple “dumb” phone can do the trick. If it’s a mobile device that can ring and be answered, and if you can dial out, then it does the job in terms of getting in touch with one another.
The experts weigh in
Many scientists, psychologists and researchers say, with the all day everyday digital world our children inhabit, there are far more dangerous than we want to admit. We’ve already seen how children and social media prove to be an incredible toxic mix. When children too young and underdeveloped, this includes teenagers, sext or text and drive, there are severe consequences.
Pew research states that the average teenagers sends 3,339 texts a month. Additionally, what once required multiple devices to do our “communicating” is now simplified via one tiny hand held gadget…..the smartphone. Lastly, the average teen spends 9 hours a day on line. These numbers are staggering and should sound the alarms for parents, educators, and caregivers.
What are the real questions?
Are we giving our children the opportunity to take a break from it all? How can we expect our children to be functioning at their best without proper rest? Are they feeling confident about their performance in school or are they neglecting the importance of their education? Do they participate in after school activities or extra curriculars to challenge their minds and bodies in ways the almighty smartphone can’t do for them? How often do they get a break from the constant selfies and snapstreaks they have to keep up with, responding to every ping and ding that gnaws at them?
5 Strategies to help you and the digital natives you’re raising:
1. If you haven’t given your child a smartphone yet, DON’T. There is nothing on a smartphone that a child needs. Internet access, social media, YouTube, and multiple gaming apps are not healthy. Experts suggest no child needs a smartphone until high school. Even then, your teenager’s level of responsibility and accountability will vary. Only the parent will know if their teen is equipped to handle the amount of maturity necessary to possess such a powerful tool/weapon.
2. Ensure that you, the parent, are modeling intentional tech use. A recent presentation I attended stated these two takeaways:
What you do in moderation, your kids will do in excess.
It is unreasonable to ask your child to listen to your advice, but ignore your example.
3. Don’t berate your child for their interest in all of this. Try to think back on your own childhood. Maybe it was the first time cable was available, MTV, Atari, and the luxury of call waiting. This is a culture of extreme influence through technology. Many kids feel they won’t “fit in” without it, or they will be missing out if they don’t have all of the bells and whistles the smartphone offers. Keep the conversation going and dialogue about why you feel so strongly about not giving it to them. It all comes from a place of love and care. They need to understand that and not feel shamed for desiring what appears to be what everyone else has.
4. Compromise. Consider offering your child an iTouch without any features that allow them to engage in internet access or social media. Additionally, a basic flip phone can also provide a feeling of empowerment and independence. The child will still be able to contact friends and be accessible without the other potential dangers that come with a smartphone.
5. Find worthwhile experts, educators, psychologists, and parents through social media. Listen to podcasts, read published articles, and stay on top of the latest and greatest research about this very hot topic in our culture. You will find comfort while you parent in this bizarre tech world we are now navigating. Also, share pertinent and important information that you learn with your child. Sometimes, hearing it from the experts vs. the nagging, lecturing parent, can be truly influential.
And as always, KEEP TALKING!