As a parent or grandparent, are you desperate for some help in the area of technology/social media? In his book, The Tech Wise Family, author Andy Crouch surveyed a thousand parents of children ages 4-17 and asked them, “What is the number one concern you have as a parent?” Out of a thousand surveyed, the number one thing parents were concerned about for their children was technology/social media.
Finding a healthy balance in this fast paced, ever changing digital age is so hard for families today. Parents have nothing to draw from or compare it to. They didn’t grow up with a phone in their pocket that demanded their attention 24/7. Parents are struggling on how to find that healthy balance for their family. The constant demand for connectedness and the increasing stress they face every day is becoming overwhelming for our kids. This tech heavy world is too difficult for children to navigate alone.
My husband and I feel like we have parented children in two different worlds. Raising our two older sons just 10 years ago looked very different than raising our three youngest today. Shortly after adopting our youngest three a few years ago, we began hearing things like “If you loved me, you’d buy me a phone.” “I’m the ONLY one in my class without a phone.” So many children and parents have mistakenly equated technology with love. Not wanting their child to feel ostracized or left out, parents give in to the pressure purchasing devices they often can't afford and putting them in the hands of kids who often can’t handle them.
Many adults rationalize their technology decisions with their kids by comparing it to their own technology use. I often hear parents say things like, “My kids already know more about technology than I do. Why bother?” “I’m tired of the fight. If you can’t beat them, join them” “I’ve got good kids. This really doesn’t apply to me”. “They are just like me. I can’t live without it either.”
As a parent or grandparent, we can NOT afford to be passive bystanders or hide our heads in the sand. Our society is reaping the consequences of our decisions, and our children’s health is at stake! Much research has been done on the detrimental effects excessive screen usage has on a child’s brain development. A child’s prefrontal cortex, the decision making part of the brain, is not fully developed until their early 20’s. Many children today are suffering from Excessive Screen Syndrome (ESS) which causes a hyper arousal of a child’s sensitive nervous system creating dysfunction in school, home and social interactions. ESS affects sleep, diet, behavior, family dynamics and school performance. Do you know a child struggling with irritability, depression, tantrums, poor self-regulation, social immaturity, insomnia, oppositional-defiant behaviors, disorganized behavior, poor sportsmanship, or learning difficulties? Researchers would contend that it very well could be because of excessive screen time. (Reset Your Child’s Brain, Victoria Dunckley MD, 2015)
Teaching your child self control NOW has a direct correlation to their health and success as an adult. (The Collapse of Parenting, Dr. Leonard Sax, 2017) As parents, we must decide now that character traits like self control, integrity, and honesty take priority over how connected we are to the world. We’ve made a conscious decision in our home to stop giving our kids what they WANT or what the world says they should have and start giving them what they NEED! Yes, technology is a regular battle in our home too, but remember you are the parent. Kelly Newcom, author and founder of Brave Parenting, writes about this very topic in her book, Managing Media-Creating Character. Kelly (Rodden) Newcom, an East Central High School grad, grew up in SE Indiana and now lives in Texas with her husband and 7 children. Her book is a great resource for any parent.
Technology/social media is here to stay and can be used for positive things, but don’t be naive to think it doesn’t come at a cost. How many more horror stories do we have to read about in the paper or hear on the news? Cyber bullying, sexting, suicide, murder….when do we finally say something has to change? I believe we can help by starting in our homes. Here are some practical suggestions to help you create a healthy media plan for your family. Together, we can make a difference.
CREATE A FAMILY MEDIA PLAN-Have a family meeting. Set the reset button and model for your children a healthy balance with technology. Develop a family media plan with limits and guidelines and stick to it. Remember, you are not their friend; you are their parent. There’s a difference! Consistency is the key. Click HERE to create a family media plan today.
LIMIT ACCESS AND USAGE-Set screen time limits for your whole house based on their age and maturity and enforce them.The longer you wait to give a child a phone, the longer you have influence over their decisions. The minute they can access a friend without your permission, you’ve lost your voice and place as the primary influence in their lives. Let go SLOW. Don’t use screens as a pacifier or babysitter. For screen time guidelines for different ages and more help on this topic, go to healthychildren.org.
NO SCREENS AT THE DINNER TABLE-Spend the time talking about the highs and lows of the day and investing in the relationships around you. Your spouse and children need to know they take priority over your phone.
NO SCREENS IN A CHILD’S BEDROOM-Sleep deprivation is the biggest culprit for the anxiety, depression, and learning difficulties our kids are experiencing today. Charge all phones and tablets in a parent’s bedroom including friends who spend the night.
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA-Do not recommend for elementary or middle school students. Monitor activity. Inappropriate behavior results in no social media. Know accounts and passwords. Remember, you are still the parent and as long as you are paying the bills and they are under your roof, you have the power!
Need help navigating these uncharted waters of technology/social media as a family? Contact us at 812-576-ROCK or rocksolidfamilies.org.