Parenting In The Digital Age
Susan Stiffelman, family therapist and author, writes in her article Parenting In The Digital Age in Huffington Post that she, almost every day, receives an email with some version of the following:
“I’m losing my kids to their smartphones/video games/internet.”
She says that the writer might be talking about a teen that can’t stay in a conversation for more than a minute because as soon as she hears the sound of a text, she’s off and running. It could also be a parent reaching out for help, since his sex year old flies into a rage whenever Daddy says it’s time to switch off the iPad.
The question Stiffelman poses is How do we help our kids enjoy the wonderful fun and social connectivity offered by their devices without losing their ability to hit the “off” switch? It isn’t an easy question to solve for our kids, nor for us. According to Stiffelman there are few parents that don’t have a close relationship with their digital devices. We stay connected with loved ones, get up dates about news, and work out car pool schedules.
But we are in uncharted territory, and nowhere is that more evident than in parenting in the digital age, says Stiffelman. How should we handle our child’s insistence that he has to be on his computer to do his homework when we know he’s also listening to music and keeping track on his friends? What should we do about a daughter who insists that the only time she’s happy is when she’s online, or a son who claims his only friends are the ones he plays online games with – kid’s he never actually met.
Stiffelman writes that she’d be a fool to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to such a complex issue. However, she reveals a few things she’d found to be true.
According to Stiffelman many children turn to their devices because it’s the only game in town. While it’s true that our 15-year-old may roll her eyes at us if we suggest a game of Monopoly, Stiffelman says that she can’t count the number of times that a child has privately confessed to her that their parents are constantly busy. She argues that youngsters who feel loved and enjoyed on a regular basis by parents who seek their company (not to remind them about homework but simply to hang out) are far more willing to disconnect from Internet. Stiffelman argue that it doesn’t really matter what you do, the main purpose is that you make time for real-world activities with your kids. By doing so they will be more willing to cooperate when it is time to unplug, claims Stiffelman.
Talk – and listen
Several kids complain of unbearable boredom when their parents tell them to turn off their screens. Others are terrified of what might be said behind their back on social media if they go offline. Therefore Stiffelman suggests that you encourage your kids to share their objections whenever you advise them to engage with the “real” world, and then listen, without scolding, shaming, or giving unwanted advice.
Don’t be afraid of their upset
Stiffelman wish that parents were less fearful of their children. She admit that they might pitch a fight if you tell them that six hours of non-stop video gaming is not an option, but children are comforted by parents who are willing to hold a line. Make peace with the probability that your children at times will be unhappy with your decisions. According to Stiffelman it’s fine if your kid tells you that you are the meanest mom who ever lived. Be kind and acknowledge their frustration, but don’t be afraid to set limits.
Model healthy habits
It’s all well and good to suggest that your kids go out and play. But how easy is it for you to resist the urge to check in one last time at work, or take a quick look at what your friends are up to on Facebook? As long as you keep spending hours every night in front of your screen, or interrupt conversations with your kids when you receive a text or an email, your children aren’t going to take you very seriously when you start extolling the virtues of the 3D world. Instead Stiffelman suggests that you go for a walk, pick up a book, or plunk yourself down in front of the piano. When your children see you having the kind of fun that doesn’t require a plug or a battery, they will be more inclined to follow suit, says Stiffelman.
As one might understand, we have much to learn about how to help our children develop healthy habits regarding technology. However, this is a good start!
Original writer: Susan Stiffelman – Family therapist, Author, Parenting With Presence, Parenting Without Power Struggles
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