I recently interviewed psychologist and technology expert Dr. Josh Straub for my Parenting Great Kids podcast. In his research, he’s discovered that technology is making our kids less empathetic, more shallow, and it’s shortening their attention spans. He elaborated on some of his findings in a fascinating blog post, Why Mister Rogers Is Smarter Than Baby Einstein.
And it’s not just the older kids at risk. Recent studies have revealed that kids younger than 5 spend an average of 40% of their waking hours each day in front of a screen. 40%! If not monitored correctly, social media and electronics could have a lasting, devastating effect on your kid.
I don’t say this to scare you. I say this to warn you and wake you up to a potential problem. Parents shouldn’t fear technology, we simply need to know what our kids are up against and how to respond.
Really, I think there’s hope for the text generation, and that hope is you. You have the power to successfully navigate your family through the complexities and uncertainties of technology.
Here are three tips for surviving, and thriving, in the text generation:
1. Don’t be afraid to take charge.
Electronics came into our lives fast and furious. Laptops, cell phones, iPads—how to manage a child’s use of them can feel overwhelming for parents. But no matter how overwhelmed or scared you feel, remember, you are in control of your child’s electronics; they are not in control of you. Parent from that place of confidence, rather than from a place of fear. You are in control of your child’s electronics; they are not in control of you.
2. Set rules for the family.
It’s unrealistic to get rid of all electronics, but it’s important to set family rules about when and how they are used and when they are not.
My husband and I did this when we were raising our kids. We turned off the TV at the beginning of summer and kept it off for the entire months of June, July, and August. I’ll be honest, the first two weeks of summer were miserable. We were so used to noise and distraction, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. But eventually, our kids got used to it. They began inviting friends over, we spent more time together as a family, and by the time September rolled around, they didn’t even want to turn the TV back on!
Restricting electronics is like going on a healthy diet. Once you get used to the healthy food, you don’t want the junk food. Consider putting your kids on an electronics diet and see the miracles that happen.
3. Abide by the rules yourself.
The #1 rule in establishing family boundaries with screen time is that parents have to lead. This is so important. Whatever rules you set for your kids, you have to follow them, too. We, as parents, are also addicted to our screens and phones, so this can be hard. But our kids will only learn if we lead by example. Show your kids what it looks like to use electronics and technology responsibly, carefully and respectfully.
Parents, don’t be intimated by the text generation. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it must be harnessed and used with healthy boundaries for your family.
Remember, you are still in charge of the electronics. They are not in charge of you!