- Together with your family, create your family values. Have a family meeting to discuss your expectations.
- Lead by example. Engage with your children, neighbors, and community with intention and purpose. When a text dings during dinner, show your children that it can wait. They are more important.
- Know the new Netiquette. Teach how to communicate appropriately and effectively when you’re not talking out loud. Talk to your kids about what they are saying, what others are saying, how they are saying it, and what photos they are “Snapping.” This opens a dialogue IRL (in real life) about what is and is not okay and why.
- Teach about reliable resources. It is incumbent that we teach our children to research their facts and know trustworthy sources before they post. That being said, the wealth of information at our fingertips is awesome.
- Create boundaries. More is at stake than just getting fresh air, a summer camp away from devices is only a band-aid to healing the craving, loneliness, and depression associated with social media use. Limit screen time and create a place to dock the family’s technology so dinners, homework time, and bedtime are technology free.
- Monitor always. Pay attention to your children’s use of games, apps, texts, and calls. You do not need to snoop, let your children know you will be watching. As a parent, it is your job to keep your kids safe. There are a variety of apps that can help with this.
- Say no to the next best thing. Teach your kids to learn to wait, to learn to save up for something special. It is especially difficult in our area, but teaching our kids to be responsible consumers is a healthy life lesson.
- Remember that much of your children’s online activity is actively engaging with their friends. Real hang-outs have been replaced by social media. Make sure apps and activities are age appropriate and that proper security settings are in place so you may allow your kids to become a part of the scene.
- Watch for feelings of isolation, not feeling “as good as” or not engaging in-person anymore. Social media has given kids a platform to bully, exclude, and undermine social standing. When kids get angry about limited use or are staying up all night, these are signs there may be a problem.
- Know the latest apps and lingo. Some apps to be aware of are: Instagram, Snapchat, TBH (To Be Honest, a plug in to Snapchat), Whisper, Kik, Omegle, GroupMe, WhatsApp, Monkey, Yellow, and Houseparty. Some may be harmless but can easily turn depending on the other-end users. Keeping an eye on app purchases and activity, along with open, honest, non-judgemental conversations will help you and your child stay safe and happy.
Technology Is Here to Stay
“The sort of intercourse that people formerly carried on at cross-road stores or over the back fence, has now attained the dignity of print and an imposing system. That we absorb a flood of this does not necessarily mean that our minds are degenerate but merely that we are gratifying an old appetite in a new way.”
This was written about newspapers in 1909 by sociologist Charles Cooley. Much like that newspaper, TV, or darned rock ‘n’ roll music, technology is here to stay.
Some say technology has affected how we interact and has taken away physical and imaginary play so important to developing young minds. However, Sara DeWitt of PBS Kids, believes “that we as a society . . . are letting our fears hold us back from realizing (technology’s) potential as a positive in children’s lives.” Like most things in life, moderation is the key. As parents, it is up to us to set the example and (do our best to) consistently uphold these boundaries while staying up to speed with the ever-changing, sometimes-alarming, world of technology.
According to a new study by The American Heart Association, “while most teenagers (60%) spend on average 20 hours per week in front of television and computer screens, a third spend closer to 40 hours per week, and about 7 percent are exposed to more than 50 hours of ‘screen-time’ per week.” The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that, “teens who spend more than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy . . . There is not a single exception.”
How do we combat the ills of technology? We counter it through human connection.
Connection is the thread of humanity, and technology can help us engage. Just like when our kids were little and we watched over them at Friends Park, we have to continue to keep an eye on them and engage with them. Rather than remaining ignorant, we must learn the skills to deal with technology in healthy ways and teach these strategies to our kids.
Nothing can replace human connection. As Jean M. Twenge, psychology professor and author of iGen, states, today’s teens are spending most of their free time “on their phone, in their room, alone, and often distressed.” However, through the responsible acceptance of technology in our lives, we can embrace it and possibly, it will allow us to flourish.
If you or your children are struggling, reach out to FSG for confidential support. Contact us for a consultation at (847) 835-5111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.