“My kids call me the phone fanatic,” a mom states.
“Mine yell, ‘Here comes the policewoman!’” says another.
A single father admits he’s given up; the stress got too high in his home.
All of the above parents are referring to their children’s use of technology. Smart phones, television, computers, tablets, games, iPads, iPods – at times they seem to take over children’s lives. Kids appear to be chained to these devices that beep, ring, ding, sing, bang, glare, and glow! In some cases, the same may be true for the adults in a family.
The Concerns about Technology
It may seem harder than ever to have a face-to-face conversation with your children. Some parents find it easier to email or text a reminder to their kids than to talk to them! And attempting to control the amount of time spent on each of these devices can seem like a full-time job that results in few kind words from either side.
Mary Pipher, author of The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families, writes that “family members are in the same house, but no longer interacting.” Often times, members of a family are having “private experiences with different electronic equipment.”
Although there are many advantages to having smart phones and access to the Internet, people learn to be social from each other, not from a screen. Children develop important traits such as empathy, kindness, trust, responsibility, and honesty through watching and interacting with people. Parents need to find a balance between allowing their children to use technology for their benefit and staying connected as a family without relying on WIFI.
Until children are well into their twenties, the part of the brain that makes decisions and resists impulses is still growing. Their judgment is not fully developed. They need parents to guide, direct, and often decide what is best for them. As maturity increases, parents can slowly let go of some control. With respect to technology, there is a lot of temptation and always something to lure children. They may not have the maturity to resist its pull.
Pipher says “all TV is educational. It teaches values and behavior.” But maybe these lessons are not the ones you would like your children to learn. For example, they are taught from ads that:
- They are most important.
- They should do what feels good.
- Pain should not be tolerated.
- The cure for pain is a product.
- It’s okay to always want more and to feel like they deserve more.
So How do You Respond?
Whenever a decision that involves many factors needs to be made, using a process called ACEing can be helpful. This tool was devised by Diane Wagenhals, Program Director of Lakeside Educational Network. It stands for:
- A – Assessing
- C – Choosing
- E – Executing
Assessing is the most important step of the process. When considering technology, you might consider the following questions:
- What does my child need? What do I need?
- What is necessary for home, schoolwork, etc?
- What is appropriate for her age?
- How mature and/or responsible is he?
- How will this benefit each of us?
- When and how can we have face-to-face time to be together as a family?
- What are reasonable limits for using this device?
- How will these limits be enforced?
- How much can/should we spend on a device?
- How will he be expected to take care of it?
- If lost or broken, what are the consequences?
This is not an easy or quick process. Your busy life can get in the way, especially if you are trying to find time for your child to be part of the discussion. Perhaps you can tackle a few questions in a session. Sometimes writing down the answers to these questions can make the process clearer for everyone. The more time spent Assessing, the better the Choice and Execution stages. Don’t rush this part!
When these questions have been fully discussed, it is time for Choosing. Depending on the age and maturity of your child, his input may be included. When you allow your child to have a say, there is often greater buy-in to the decision.
The last step is Executing your decision by putting your plan into action. Give your child advance warning of when the new rules are going into effect. Slowly reducing time spent on a phone or computer may be more fair than suddenly cutting the time allowed to use these devices.
Remember you are the boss!
You need to monitor any decision you make. No matter what your children’s age, if they live in your home, you are IN CHARGE. Sometimes this means reminding in a firm tone that “In our house, ________is the rule for using the phone, computer, or TV.” This will take time and might also result in complaints. You can respond with, “That may be, but this is what I/we have decided.”
Mary Pipher believes that “when children are raised in front of machines and away from human contacts they become less than fully human.” If you want your children to benefit from technology and still become fully human, you need to raise them according to your values rather than the often less-than-healthy standards of society. Relationships with one another can yield so much more than those beeps, rings, dings, glares, and glows!
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