Technology is such a quandary to me. Laptops, Ipads, Notebooks, Email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, Skype, Instagram, and on and on… How connected do we really need to be? I am not really sure, and truly I could argue thoroughly for either position.
But, as a parent we must decide how this is affecting our children. At first I thought, oh this is simple, limit screen time, cancel cable, don’t buy video games. And sure, that was a great game plan when we only had elementary age children and babies. Eventually though, they start to grow up – and the Internet and Social Media are still around.
Recently I sat in on session discussing teens and social media. I learned a lot! The speaker was a current high school teacher who had taken the time to survey and discuss social media and internet/cell phone usage with her high school students. In this survey the students were asked, If you were the parent, what would you do differently regarding your child’s (your) use of the Internet, cell phones and/or Social Media? Overall, with the exception of maybe one or two, these high school students agreed their parents should monitor their usage more closely and limit their time spent on the Web, Facebook, texting and other similar things. It was generally agreed that when doing homework while sitting in front of Facebook the homework took significantly much more time to complete and likely was not completed as thoroughly as it could have been.
This observation was amazing to me. Sure this is nothing new, but this shows even teens recognize how easily one can be drawn in and consumed by all of this.
Recently I have changed my opinion of technology and social media. I do still have my moments I would prefer to live Little House On the Prairie style, but in the end I have decided technology, media and the Internet are here to stay so we might as well adjust, teach our children how to use it in a healthy way most benefiting to them, and most importantly, as a parent, lead by example.
Every family will have to find rules to best suit your own family, lifestyle, schedules and needs. These are some ideas I really like:
1. Limit screen time each day. (Did you know on average children are in front of some sort of screen somewhere between 5-8 hours per day?) Find an amount of time that works for your family. For our little children I believe 30 minutes a day is plenty. Although for my oldest who reads on his iPad and uses the computer for his homework this amount of time is adjusted. I have spoken with families who require their children to earn their screen time. This could be from anything you choose – reading, outside play, completing academic worksheets, push-ups (yes, one dad I spoke with rewarded extra screen time for push-ups). Like I said, you have to decide what works best for your family.
2. Maintain a purpose. Don’t sit down to “surf” the television or internet.
3. Let it be known from the beginning that you will sometimes be browsing your children’s phones, texts, social media sites and emails. Explain this is not because you do not trust them. It is because you do not trust others. Always know their passwords and always “friend” them on sites like Facebook.
4. In regards to number 3, teach your children of the responsibilities of using the internet. Warn them of stalkers. And explain the permanent fingerprint the internet leaves and how this information can and will be used in the future by college admission counselors and future employers. Also be aware of what others are posting on your pages. There is some truth to the adage, “You are only as good as the company you keep.”
5. Set a media curfew. Take phones, iPads, laptops and other devices away for the night. Sleep is a good thing.
6. Don’t text and drive.
7. Don’t talk on the phone and drive.
8. If it makes you more comfortable, use filters to block inappropriate sites, applications to duplicate texts being sent to your child’s phone, activate the GPS locator. My only caution to this would be to be open about it. Furtive actions on your part will only create motive for lack of trust and sneakiness from your child.
9. Lead by example. Use technology in the ways you would like to see your children using it. This will be more effective than any rule you could ever make.